I’m Back! And if last week’s post didn’t get me kicked off Engineer Blogs guest blogger list, this one might! This week’s Theme is Networking and I’m much more snarky when it comes to this topic. Networking is great when it’s a CAT5 cable because your wireless is on the fritz. Otherwise, I severely dislike the word networking. I put words/phrases like a networking event, functionalized, a setup was realized, think outside the box, and mission statements in the category “don’t ever use” if you want to be taken seriously. (I mean, would you take me seriously if I had the GEARS Mission Statement: Realizing novel, functionalized instruments to expand your networking tools by thinking outside the box to create paradigm shifts? I know I wouldn’t.)
The reason I don’t take marketing/business jargon like build your network or expand your network seriously is because the aspect of obtaining a network is treated as the end goal. Sure, I love to go out and meet people, talk about my work, and learn about their work. And in academia, you need that otherwise you’re not going to expand your research base. But I don’t go out to network for the sake of networking. Having 1000 connections on your LinkedIn account doesn’t mean you’re more networked than someone that has 100 connections (or even 10 for that matter). It matters much more who you are connected with rather than the number of connections.
If I’m honest, I network just as much as the next researcher trying to make it in academia. I don’t go to networking events, though. Rather, I go to conferences and present my research. And at the conference, I make sure to socialize with a variety of people, especially people that I may only be loosely familiar with. That is networking, but I don’t call it networking. I call it the thing you do if you want to be successful.
I know it sounds weird and hypocritical. Some of you are probably saying “But GEARS, you say that you network and you need to network in order to be successful, yet you don’t call it networking.”
And my response is “You’re exactly correct.” Here’s why.
If I’m at a conference and there’s someone that I want to discuss a research topic with, I generally say to them, “Hi, I’m GEARS from OldEuropeU and I’m working on this. I see you’re working on this similar topic. Maybe we should investigate this together because we could pool our resources.”
No one says, “Hey, we work on similar stuff. We should network.” Also, when you’re asked about a colleague, no one goes, “Oh, him over there? Yeah, that’s Joe from Engineer Inc. He’s part of my network.”
People say thinks like “Yeah, That’ s Joe from Engineer Inc. I met him last year at this conference and we discussed underwater basket weaving. Let’s go grab a beer and I’ll introduce you to him.”