On the Importance of Not Networking

The cardinal rule in business is that networking is key to success. While I’m not completely disagreeing with this statement, it should only be done in moderate dosages. These last few weeks there’s been a plethora of networking events to attend in Austin and I’ve attended every single one with nothing to show for my efforts. I’ve rubbed elbows with some very successful people, but I haven’t learned anything from those encounters. When I reached out to them to have lunch some time (they usually said yes) I often found myself grasping for questions to ask just because they didn’t know much about trading, and I didn’t need their knowledge on entrepreneurship. Listening to their success story is inspirational, sure, but there’s a point when one spends too much time listening to people talk about how they became successful rather than actually hunting it down yourself.

I’m not saying not to network at all, but I would venture to guess that when most people recommend networking they assume that you’re holing up and not talking to anyone else in your industry. If you’re already networking plenty, I’d make the suggestion to cut back, if not stop completely. Why do you need to network? Do you have a product that you are trying to market, a trading strategy that you need help refining, or is there some roadblock in your work that you need outside input on? If not than I see no point in going to networking events consistently. One has to sit down and work out the technical details before networking plays any benefit.

A few things that I’ve learned from this experience is that:

  1. Have a project in progress to work on – if you don’t even have a project you’re working on and you’re expecting these networking events to catapault you into success than you’re sorely mistaken. The only thing a networking event can do for your is to make you realize how important constantly working at a skill or idea you want to grow. You won’t have much to contribute to the conservation, nor have as much use for the advice many people will give you.
  2. Network with a specific goal in mind (sometimes) – You should only go to networking events often if you there is a specific roadblock you cannot solve on your own or with the help of the internet. Clearly this doesn’t mean to be a dick to people who can’t aid in your process, but don’t go out of your way to meet someone just because he/she is successful.

Granted there are exceptions to this rule: a good friend of mine has recently struck a partnership with a successful mathematician and is now in the process of launching a hedge fund that has already drawn a lot of local attention, but these occurences are not common. I know that I’m definitely going to cut back on these events and finally sit down to get some real work done.