Effective Networking (When Not to Network)

by Darius Kazemi on September 10, 2008

in networking

So I received three requests (two on the blog, one over IM) that were pretty similar. The first question was, “How do you politely decline someone who wants to network but you want nothing to do with them?” The second was, “How much networking is too much?” And the third was, “How much time do you spend networking?”

All of these questions boil down to questions of when or how to NOT network.

My definition of networking is pretty simple: at its core, it’s about making friends and helping people and having a good time. And then, importantly, remembering to follow up with people, take notes, etc. Making friends and helping people are activities you really should be doing all the time. So I would say that I’m always networking. Even when I’m at home alone I’m probably sending an email out to someone, or catching up on an old acquaintance’s blog, or something like that.

Granted, there are times when I’m more “on” than others.  As I’ve mentioned before, even on my bike or at the train station I’m still on the lookout for networking opportunities. But I’m not preparing for those situations, and it’s really more of a personal compulsion to search an anonymous crowd for a face I recognize. So my memory exercises help with that, but I don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Excellent. Today I shall run into two people on the subway, the second of which will be a business contact.”

So, to directly answer the last two questions: I am always networking, and I don’t think you can network too much — as long as your networking is of the “I am making friends” variety, and you’re not bothering one person too much.

I think I’ll answer the first question at a later date. I need to ponder that one…


Kevin September 10, 2008 at 7:45 pm

“Excellent. Today I shall run into two people on the subway, the second of which will be a business contact.”


Ian Schreiber September 13, 2008 at 11:03 pm

Well, if you define networking as just making friends and hanging out, the first question doesn’t quite seem to fit. It sounds more like the person is asking about people who clearly have an agenda and are NOT just trying to hang out and have a good time, and how to ditch these people so they can go back to, um, hanging out and having a good time.

So the answer to the person who’s being annoying, is to stop doing that. If your networking is getting in the way of someone else’s fun, you’re doing it wrong. I think you’ve said something to that effect in the past.

As to how to politely blow a person off who’s doing this to you… point off towards a distant crowd and say “ooh, look, Sid Meier!” ;-)

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