The world has changed in a big way, and Coronavirus has impacted the way we all do business and further our careers. Due to social distancing restrictions, we have all had to get creative and think of newer, better ways of connecting, both in our professional and personal lives. This is typically done via two approaches – networking and socializing.
Networking refers to the idea of reaching out to other professionals in similar fields, whether physically or digitally, with the intention of developing career opportunities. It’s long been seen as the ultimate approach to take for jobseekers looking to make connections and formulate opportunities.Many jobseekers now focus on socializing – simply meeting up with people to hang out and spend time with them. This completely transforms the job search process. This article explores the benefits of socializing and celebrates its successes in comparison to networking, when it comes to advancing your career.
Why “Networking” Doesn’t Work
For decades people have viewed networking as the ultimate way of interacting professionally. Those seeking work are constantly looking to expand the connections they have in the business world and aim to use these to increase the opportunities available to them (McKay, 2019). Traditionally, people would attend trade shows or business conventions in order to network in person, but these days that’s not always possible. So much of this is done digitally now.
Traditionally, this in-person interaction resulted in closer, more legitimate [LH1] and more effective networks that actually [LH2] benefitted people.
Today, people create connections and “network” largely through technology and what is known as the “network effect”. This effect, in essence, is the way in which tech platforms, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, allow people to connect with one another through mutual networks. In short, greater user numbers make networks more visible and allow more people to connect with one another (Banton, 2019).
Modern networking has a functionality problem which is compounded by the three Cs, which we will explore in more detail below.
The Functionality Problem
Networking functions by allowing people to leverage various platforms and software in order to connect virtually with other professionals. However, the potential problem here is that everyone, no matter their field or experience level, is drawn to use this networking approach. They will create their own connections within these artificial networks, often making them more of a popularity contest. This connection network can mean that you’re being viewed by people irrelevant to your job role, because they happen to know someone that you know. This can make networking fairly redundant and ineffective.
A recent Wired article describes these inefficacies of modern-day networking as the “reverse network effects” and argues that networking today is broadly [LH3] ineffective and often detrimental to a professional’s career. It also makes finding a new job extremely difficult (Choudary, 2014).
The Three Cs
This “reverse network effect” impacts the three Cs of professional connectivity: connection, content and clout.
First of all, networking platforms today are overrun by countless new users on a daily basis, looking to connect with others, which for many people, leads to low quality interactions [LH4] and unsolicited connection requests. With the vast number of users on social networking sites, many professionals struggle to forge meaningful connections and are unable to search for new employment opportunities because of the quantity of useless connections on these platforms. On LinkedIn, for example, many young and inexperienced users believe it is better to have the highest number of connections possible, in order to support the vain assumption that “more is better”. What most of these users fail to realize is that within this large number of connections, the meaningful ones may make up less than 1% and your willingness to connect with anyone and everyone may make you appear professional.
The second outcome of the reverse network effect is that the network itself may not be able to sort through all the data and daily content created by users. This, in addition to high user numbers, leads to cluttered timelines that aren’t tailored to user experience. Cluttered content reduces the chances of finding a new job significantly, because the things you’re seeing aren’t relevant to you. Users are inundated with useless information from their large networks, as opposed to job possibilities and content from industry professionals.
The final outcome is the ‘clout’ effect. This occurs when early adopters of a technology (and those who are otherwise famous) reap the most benefits. High profile users with clout on networks are typically separated from other users. This means that most new users are engaging in a fruitless endeavor when trying to establish professional connections and meaningful careers through modern networking platforms.
Loss of Effectiveness
Networking was a highly effective tool when practiced in-person but has since lost its effectiveness. Due to the saturation of professional networking sites, the quality of professional connections has been on a steady decline and it is increasingly difficult for professionals to make meaningful connections. Though popular, modern networking is little more than a trendy but ineffective tool. Networking as a whole is not as effective as it once was because many professional networking sites simply view users as revenue (Reed, 2015).
Networking today is centered around the use of technology (i.e. social platforms and software), with the goal of allowing individuals to ‘connect’ with others and make meaningful, real-life connections. However, these connections are becoming more and more ineffective due to the excessive and improper usage of content. Networking today often prevents people from making real connections and instead presents you with unsolicited connections from complete strangers, making it very difficult for people to find their next job. What is more appropriate are simply the ‘digital connections’ that people make with one another to gain a larger following, and this digital socializing can be essential in helping further your career.
Exploring Socializing in Personal & Professional Contexts
Socializing is broadly defined as the act of mixing socially with other people. This generally takes place in some sort of public setting. There are many different aspects of socializing which apply in both a business and a general sense. There are forms of business socializing, such as corporate events, open days and trade shows, as well as forms of general socializing, such as parties, dinner, movie nights and sporting events. We all socialize in some capacity in our daily lives, and these days, it is possibly the most effective way to further your career opportunities.
In a broader context, socializing simply refers to getting out of the house and interacting with people wherever possible. This is something that comes naturally to some people and less so for others. It’s becoming increasingly true that people are reaching that next rung on the career ladder through friends or friends of friends, rather than through a more formal business process.
You should always be on the ball, looking out for opportunities when you’re socializing to gain greater success in your career, no matter what the setting. Socializing has taken on a new meaning in a post-COVID world, so you should never be afraid to ‘talk shop’ when out with friends. Someone might know someone who knows someone, and this is how many career opportunities begin.
In short, it is important to make socializing a core part of your life. You should use it to interact with others while also helping to find and discover career prospects. Kill two birds with one stone.
The Benefits of Socializing
Socializing comes with many benefits in both a personal and professional sense, so you need to recognize and act on them. You don’t have to be a social butterfly. There are a lot of people who aren’t naturally sociable. The advantage of socializing today is that technology and the internet have made it far easier to socialize on a digital level, via things like online video calls, without even having to leave the comfort of your sofa.
There are plenty of amazing ideas you can use to socialize with friends that take advantage of the technology we have at our disposal. This global pandemic has meant that there have been a lot of restrictions on movement, keeping people distanced from one another. This has largely threatened to scupper the career advancement of many social butterflies across the world as they are used to face-to-face contact. However, digital socializing can achieve the same outcome if you do it right! Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why socializing beats networking:
1. Socializing Doesn’t Have the Limitations of Networking
One of the drawbacks of networking, especially on a site like LinkedIn, is its limitations. Working professionals only have a certain amount of time to dedicate to networking. They’re busy people after all, that’s why you want to get in touch with them. Your success in networking is therefore determined by how much time your contacts want to dedicate to it and also the times that they’re online to network with you.
Networking sites can suffer from oversaturation. There are plenty of other people in your position vying for networking opportunities. This can overwhelm professionals, which may put them off engaging with you. Needless to say, this is something that can really damage your chances of success.
Socializing doesn’t come with these problems, which is what makes it such an excellent choice. It is typically more laid back and less stressful, which can often lead to more opportunities.
2. Some People Thrive in Informal Settings
Another aspect many overlook is that networking can end up being quite formal, which doesn’t suit everybody. When networking on a site like LinkedIn, you have to have a strong and detailed resume that attracts interest, and you have to be able to hold your own during conversations with industry professionals. This could mean answering quickfire questions, showcasing your experience, and being able to present yourself as professionally as possible.
However, not everybody excels in this kind of environment, and it can be daunting. In fact, the majority of people struggle with this. If you struggle to sell yourself, socializing is a far better approach to take, as it allows for a more informal and relaxed environment, such as a pub or coffee shop. Many people feel more comfortable and relaxed in these environments and are more likely to present themselves well, even when faced with a formal discussion. Plus, it’s a great way of developing strong bonds and important relationships.
3. Face-to-Face Interaction
Face-to-face interaction is a key aspect of effective networking, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to make this happen in-person. With socializing, even if you are doing so virtually, there are plenty of wonderful benefits to face-to-face socializing. People like putting a face to a name and voice, and this can help you to seem more approachable and engaging.
Since the pandemic, there have been many more instances of face-to-face digital socializing. One great option is the Zoom mixer meetings provided by VideoSocialize. Being able to interface with people is much more effective than email, messaging or text chatting behind a computer screen.
4. There’s No Agenda
One of the best things about socializing is that there is no agenda attached. When networking, you tend to have an agenda, as you want to create career opportunities. This is great as it makes you more organized and determined. However, it also means that people won’t see the real you and may view you with suspicion or believe that any attempt at reaching out has an ulterior motive.
When you are simply socializing, you can be yourself. Sure, talk about your goals and ambition, but also talk about your hobbies and favorite sports team. Presenting yourself as a person, rather than just a business asset will mean that people are much more receptive to your proposals. Socializing means organic conversation, letting you discover what a person is actually like. This is key to helping you when it comes to improving your career prospects and the potential for more opportunities to further your job search.
In closing, it is important to understand that socializing is the key to long-term business success. Networking might seem like the ideal choice, but it has many flaws. Socializing, both personally and professionally, is the best way of being able to secure more leads and improve your career prospects. Through the innovation of companies like VideoSocialize, this has become a reality for so many jobseekers out there.
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Matthew Biggin is a 36 year old twin dad and Divock Origi enthusiast. He graduated from the University of Portsmouth in 2005 with a joint Honours BA in English and Media Studies. Matt freelances as a copywriter, content expert and blogger. He has also spent time working as a screenwriter. He currently hangs his hat in North London.