Inspired by the class presentation on professional networking, I wanted to add my thoughts on an issue I find interesting and important, which is whether open or selective networking works best for young students today. I believe that for many of us it might seem like ‘the more the merrier’ is the guideline when thinking about networking, and that too many LinkedIn connections never hurt anyone. However, living in a city with so many opportunities as Singapore, there seems to be an endless amount of business dinners and networking events to attend and only a limited amount of time. Therefore this issue should be thought through in order to maximize the benefit from your professional network. There are many pros and cons with the two ways of networking, so I will just address the ones I find most interesting and the ones that we did not pay that much attention to in class to add some more thoughts.
First of all, it is important to think through the potential impact to your reputation by attending different networking events. An innocent company dinner might harm your reputation if it is commonly known that the company is really not on your list of potential employers. This is because your fellow classmates and future colleagues might look at you as a “networker” who goes to events for the sole purpose of receiving some future benefits from the people you meet there. This again might harm the potential to network with your classmates, which might be a way more interesting target. Nobody likes to feel that their relationship with another person is based upon the level of career benefit that can be extracted by the relationship. While this might be the underlying foundation for the relationship, and it certainly is in some cases, it should not be highlighted.
Secondly, an open approach to networking might lead you to lose focus on what you really want since time is limited. If an unknown company can buy you dinner and take you out, this seems fine. Will this however lead you to become tired the next day, thus hampering your opportunity to work for your real goals? Will you lose focus on the goals you really should be working to achieve? And will you spend unnecessary time maintaining a relationship that will not help you reach the position you want? These issues should be thought through before answering yes or applying for the event in every case.
Finally, if you are selective with the events you attend, you will also seem more interesting in the eyes of your peers. You will seem like a person who knows what he or she wants and who is not always accessible. This will greatly improve your networking opportunities, making people come to you instead of you chasing them. In lack of better examples: One reason why so many people try to flirt with the same person is that he or she rarely says yes.
To summarize, many of the arguments above are based on the assumption that you know which industry you want to work in and which job that might fit you, and in this case a more selective and concentrated approach to networking seems like the best fit. However, it might be the case that you have no idea where to work, in what sector or in which position. Open networking will probably suit you better in that case, but the real problem in this situation is the lack of self-awareness.