“Don’t ever go to networking events, they’re trash,” my friend explained.
“Why so adamant?” I asked. “I mean, networking events are an opportunity to meet people that you wouldn’t meet otherwise. Maybe you make a valuable connection.”
“No, they’re all bullshit. They’re not gonna help you with anything,” he insisted.
“You see, there’s two types of people at networking events — recruiters and people who suck at their jobs.”
I laughed because it was so true. I was previously a recruiter, and I’d go to networking events all the time to collect business cards, figure out who’s hiring, and find desperate people looking for jobs.
That said, I still thought networking events could be valuable. For example, if you reach out to someone on LinkedIn maybe you get no response. When you go to an event it allows you to have a direct connection with that person.
He pushed back.
“The thing that gets me consulting deals, the thing that gets me job offers every time is excelling at my day job, and excelling at side gigs.”
Framed this way, it made a lot of sense.
His point is that if you double-down on fewer things professionally, you’ll have outsized results.
In other words, focusing on being the best instead of spending so much time “marketing yourself” is key.
Eventually, your exceptional results will bring more business through word of mouth, whether that’s your full time job or your side gig.
Put another way, the way you build a personal brand isn’t by actually building your brand (talking about yourself)…It’s about doing what you do, really well, and getting better day in and day out.
In retrospect, the best referral and leads that I’ve got in my career have not come from attending events. They came from putting in work and getting results for clients — whether that was previously as a recruiter or more recently in writing. That success spread as clients inevitably talk to each other.
So, if you’re thinking about boosting your career or side gig over the next few months, don’t expect it all to come together at some pivotal moment or connection from a networking event. Instead, put in the work.
For example, you could pitch a new, innovative project at work and create something that others will notice (be an ‘intrapreneur’). Write a book, make a video, start a podcast, build an app… or just do your job really well, better than anyone else.
If you’re great, and consistent, you will get noticed. Be so good they can’t ignore you.
And then magic will happen. People will start pitching YOU.
People will start introducing people to YOU.
And you’ll be too busy to go to a networking event.