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Networking shouldn’t inform everyday interactions

By Jill Girgulis, January 17 2017 —

You are at an event. The dress code is business-casual. Your friend — a third-year en route to a Bachelors of Commerce with a concentration in marketing- — is with you. Midway through the evening, your friend leaves your side to go talk an older, well-dressed gentleman you don’t recognize standing near the drinks table. You watch as your friend smoothly glides over and extends their hand. They smile warmly at the man, make good eye contact, exchange inaudible dialogue and then return to you a few moments later.

“Who was that?” you ask. Your friend responds: “Mr. [insert local business mogul here]. He started [insert random business venture here] when he was [some impressively young age] and his head office is in the downtown core. My plan is to get a job with his company this summer, so right now I’m just doing a bit of networking to get the ball rolling.”

And you thought maybe your friend was just asking about the drink menu.

For many people, the term “network” is familiar, but the concept of making calculated social connections for the purpose of advancing one’s career or laying down the framework for a favour in the future is something entirely different.

This one word has redefined how people interact. Instead of going over to talk to someone to be friendly or polite, there exists an underlying motivation to get something out of a conversation. Otherwise, it’s perceived as a waste of time. The concept of networking encourages people to put for their own self-interest above all others.

Since I’ve been in university, I’ve noticed just how often this word is used. “Networking” appears in the subheading of a poster advertising a faculty event or on Facebook as the title of an upcoming mixer held at the Den. I’m sorry, but no networking will ever be done at the Den.

I understand the importance of what’s known as “business networking” and how it has become an unavoidable and necessary component of some careers. What I don’t understand is why we feel the need to incorporate this strategic concept into our everyday lives and encounters.

Networking changes the attitudes people have when they approach certain social situations. And it makes our simple interactions like grabbing a coffee or drinks with others less authentic. There’s this need to benefit from the interaction in some way. And if the other person isn’t actively networking too, then there’s the tendency for the conversation to transform into an insincere, one-sided affair. Those that possess a networking mindset may even be more likely to start using people as a means to an end. Whatever happened to simply talking to a person because we like them or find them interesting and want to learn more about them?

If there really is a person who you feel would be good for you to get to know, then do exactly that. Actually take the time to form a legitimate, genuine connection with that person. And when it comes to the rest of the people you interact with each day, just be a decent person. Don’t enter every new situation only thinking about what’s in it for you. It’s as simple as that.

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