Point/Counterpoint Networking or Nay?
The Benefits of Networking
By WHITNEY LEE
t one time or another,
almost everyone has heard the phrase, “it’s not about what you know, but who you know.” This phrase could not be more true than when applied to the career fields that the majority of Harvard students are interested in. If you want to succeed in the world of business (or law, entertainment, politics, music or a wide variety of fields that highly ambitious students are interested in), you have to be willing to network. This means getting out there and making an impression. At the same time, you will need to learn about and appreciate what others have to offer so you can contact them down the road when the need arises to develop some type of business relationship with them. It is indisputable that meeting people and making positive connections can benefit you in the future. Networking with people in different areas of expertise can benefit you when you need information in an area you are unfamiliar with or when you are looking for a career change in the future. Of course, networking is a two-way street — you will not be able to sustain your connections if you are only involved in them for your own personal benefit. College is full of countless opportunities for networking, but it is up to the student to utilize these opportunities. The skill of networking is so valuable to one’s professional future that most colleges, e s p e c ia l l y e l i t e c o l l eg e s , try to ease students into the practice of networking as soon as possible. At
The Harvard Independent • 09.22.11
H a r v a r d s p e c i f i c a l l y, opportunities to network occur almost everyday during class and social events with student organizations such as AMBLE and HWIB. In addition to this, Harvard allows certain companies that tend to favor hiring the cream of the crop (no arrogance intended) to come to our campus to actively recruit juniors and seniors for internships or even full-time analyst positions. Arguably, if Harvard did not provide networking opportunities, it would be putting students at a disadvantage when put up against the students from other schools who seek out opportunities to network v o r a c i o u s l y, s o m e t i m e s even more voraciously than Harvard students as they try to gain the professional advantage. The potential to network, to expand student’s professional reach is one that is so central to Harvard culture that in many ways, it is one of the main selling points of the school. What makes up for the sometimes impersonal relations with the administration, the large class sizes and the wildlyvarying dorm quality is the host of social opportunities that Harvard offers — the chance to associate oneself with social and professional elites. Going to college, especially an Ivy League college, is not just about gaining knowledge, but also about gaining social capital and networking is the best way to do that. Whitney Lee ’14 (whitneylee@ college.harvard.edu) sees no harm in collecting business cards.
Insincerity Has a New Name
By MEGHAN BROOKS here
icky about the word “networking”, not in its sound, as is the case with disturbingly onomatopoeic words like “phlegm” or “muck:, but in its very meaning. “Networking” is essentially active disingenuousness, and networking events — horrid fluorescent-lighted affairs comprised almost entirely of too-toothy smiles and firm handshakes — are little more than socially sanctioned excuses for the chronically self-possessed to preen and exchange business cards while the chronically anxious clutch Styrofoam cups and wish they were somewhere else. “Networking” is, in simpler terms, tacky. When a human being, businesses-minded human beings included, chooses to become acquainted with another human being, s/he can approach the other in one of two distinct ways. She can either decide to get to know the other person as a person and interest herself in the other’s interests and personality or she can ask herself, “How can I best use this person for my own gain?” and proceed from there. Ostensibly, non-narcissists go into conversations with the former intention in mind. However, the mentality of networking is the latter, which inevitably produces insincere, superficial relationships with the very people networkers so desperately try to forge productive relationships with. There is no denying that networking, or rather, the desired outcome of networking, is essential to successful and dynamic businesses and businesspeople. Making contacts with other people in the same or a related field is how hiring happens, how partnerships are established between companies, and how new and exciting ideas circulate amongst peers. However, although the establishment of business contacts is the goal of networking, the mentality of its conscious practitioners is often
counter-productive. Students who, through various well-meaning workshops affiliated with the Office of Career Services or various pre-professional student groups, have been trained in the “art” of networking have come to view cocktail parties or other such events as opportunities to win as many business cards as possible. The method they have been trained in is simple: a brief introduction, a compliment couched in self-promotion, and then, before the card collection and promise to set a lunch date, the casual but shrewd assessment of exactly how useful each person will be to the other. It is this emphasis on breadth of network, on collecting as many contacts as possible, rather than on depth of relationships, that makes “networking’ counter-productive and even mildly distasteful. Good business relationships are built not only on mutual convenience, but also on the willingness of each party to help the other, and that willingness is based on trust. Trust comes from series of actual conversations borne out of genuine interest and engagement, and current networking culture prevents that from happening. What, then, is the alternative to conventional networking, especially for young Harvard graduates trying to create careers out of little more than an undergraduate degree and an internship or two? The key seems to be as simple as abandoning the conventional networking mentality. No one needs a workshop to learn how to talk to people honestly. We’re people: forming relationships is what we do, and if “networkers” could start treating their peers more like people and less like business opportunities, they might find that those relationships they do form are ultimately more useful than stacks of trophy business cards. Meghan Brooks ’14 (meghanbrooks@ college), likes Holden Caulfield, dislikes phonies. firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on Sep 22, 2011