There is little doubt that human beings have a need for social interaction. In his landmark paper A Theory of Human Motivation (1943), Abraham Maslow concluded that, after fulfilling our psychological and safety needs, we must fulfill our interpersonal and “belongingness” needs. To paraphrase Maslow, individuals hunger for affectionate relationships with people and they will strive with great intensity to achieve this goal.
One popular activity to satisfy our hunger, find our place in a group, and connect with others is networking. Networking is not a recent phenomenon. I am confident that ancient Romans found time to gather in a public place, share a goblet of wine, and talk about the important topics of the day. From my research, it appears that most networking in ancient Rome took place outdoors. This all changed, of course, with the advent of the hotel. Once the Courtyard by Marriott was invented, networkers finally found a place to gather, unencumbered by obstacles like unexpected thunderstorms and packs of wild animals. Gathered close together in the Presidential Ballroom, networkers now enjoy cash bars, restroom sinks that allow you to wash your hands without touching anything, and name badges.
Today, networking is omnipresent. In an effort to connect with others, your colleagues will:
- Attend teleclasses and webinars hosted by nationally known networking experts.
- Participate in workshops focused on methods to network.
- Read books on networking.
- Devour articles written by world-class networkers.
- View blogs by the same world-class networkers, who have re-purposed the aforementioned articles.
- Talk about how they should be networking, yet never do any actual networking.
You frequently hear that networking is a critical activity for your professional success. I know I did when I attended the dozens of workshops, webinars, teleclasses, and networking events during my transition from my last employer. If you are an individual in transition, or a self-employed business professional, you need to focus a significant portion of your time and energy networking. Nothing will get an individual in transition or working to develop business in front of a decision maker faster than a network introduction.