(p. 7) It’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network.
Look at big breaks in entertainment. For George Lucas, a turning point was when Francis Ford Coppola hired him as a production assistant and went on to mentor him. Mr. Lucas didn’t schmooze his way into the relationship, though. As a film student he’d won first prize at a national festival and a scholarship to be an apprentice on a Warner Bros. film — he picked one of Mr. Coppola’s.
Or take Justin Bieber’s career: Although it took off after Usher signed him, he didn’t network his way into that meeting. Mr. Bieber taught himself to sing and play four instruments, put a handful of videos on YouTube, and a manager ended up clicking on one. Adele was discovered that way, too: She wrote and recorded a three-song demo, a friend posted it on Myspace, and a music exec heard it. Developing talent — and sharing it — catapulted them into those connections.
For entrepreneurs, too, achievement is a magnet to mentors and a beacon to backers. Spanx took off when Oprah Winfrey chose it as one of her favorite things of the year — but not because she was stalked by the company’s founder, Sara Blakely. For two and a half years, Ms. Blakely sold fax machines by day so that she could build her prototype of footless pantyhose by night. She sent one from the first batch to Ms. Winfrey.
Networks help, of course. In a study of internet security start-ups, having a previous connection to an investor increased the odds of getting funded by that investor in the first year. But it was pretty much irrelevant afterward. Accomplishments were the dominant driver of who invested over time.
Similarly, researchers found that in hospitals, the radiologists who ended up with the most desirable networks were the ones with the highest performance nine months earlier. And in banks, star performers attracted bigger networks and were more likely to maintain those ties. Achievements don’t just help us make connections; they also help sustain those connections.
. . .
So stop fretting about networking. Take a page out of the George Lucas and Sara Blakely playbooks: Make an intriguing film, build a useful product.
And don’t feel pressure to go to networking events. No one really mixes at mixers. Although we plan to meet new people, we usually end up hanging out with old friends. The best networking happens when people gather for a purpose other than networking, to learn from one another or help one another.
For the full commentary, see:
Grant, Adam. “Networking Is Overrated.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., AUG. 27, 2017): 7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date AUG. 24, 2017, and has the title “Good News for Young Strivers: Networking Is Overrated.”)