Why You Don’t Need to Go to Networking Events, with David Burkus

Why You Don’t Need to Go to Networking Events, with David Burkus



this is fine your dream job the podcast that helps you get hired I have the career you want and make a difference in life I'm your host Mack Pritchard I'm also the founder of Mack's list it's a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps people find fulfilling careers every Wednesday on this show I interview a career expert we discussed the tools you need to find the work you want this week I'm talking to David burkas about why you don't need to go to networking events David is the author of friend of a friend it's a new book about how to use the science of human behavior to grow your network and build your connections he joins us today from Jenks Oklahoma David welcome to the show let's get right into it why do you recommend people skip networking events yeah well thank you so much for having me we we should probably start with the realization they're like let's be honest most people don't want to go to them to begin with they don't – they David networking is one of these sort of for a lot of people necessary evils of finding that dream job right you you know you need to reach out you need to make new professional connections but I mean there's there's little been studies done where people have subconscious thoughts of getting clean which is another way of saying that they feel morally tainted when they're doing professional networking and especially that unstructured sort of meetup or cocktail hour end of a conference kind of free time that can be sort of prime awkwardness because even though the goal is we've got a meeting all these different people the reality is people spend most of their time talking to people they already know but we know this from several different studies that people don't mix at these networking mixers my favorite one was a study of Executive MBA students so these are the 45 to 55 year old people whose company is paying $100,000 or more for them to do this Executive MBA program and most of the programs start with these mixers these networking events and the researchers at one Ivy League school decided thank everybody with an RFID chip and track who interacted with whom at these networking events and despite everybody saying that one of the goals of the Executive MBA program is to meet new people people spent the majority of their time with the 1/4 to 1/3 of the room that they already knew and in most of us are the same way when we're puttin that unstructured environment we either linger longer with people that we already know or we spend a lot of time with people who are most similar to us and so we don't get the benefit of that sort of diversity and potential new ideas new introductions new leads on on job hunting from these events because when people are put in that unstructured situation they are they lean on the familiar and that can be people you know it can be subjects that are already familiar to you and you don't end up getting that benefit so in reality though in addition to that idea that these networking events aren't working the other reason why people shouldn't go is that quite frankly there are better ways to expand the number of people that you know and for most people the number of people they know is already sufficient to provide them with the the leads the new information the new ideas or the new introductions that they need the existing network that they have is often more powerful but we forget about it we stick with our close contacts we spend a lot of our time once we're in a job we've spent a lot of our time with people that we just meet organically through the calm through the process doing the job and we leave these what are called weak and dormant ties we just leave them by the wayside and unfortunately a lot of us don't even pick them up but if we do we do it when we know we need work really but when we're desperate for something and that's the wrong time to be doing it is and so there are three huge ideas that you shared there that I want to unpack the first is why do people feel so awkward going to events David so so I think there is the the best that I can tell from a lot of these different studies and some of this is is what the the fancy term is sort of confabulation people who are in the study then try and rationalize their behavior and they don't really we a lot of times act and then think afterwards and so when we reflect back on it but for a lot of people what's interesting is that sense of moral taint that awkwardness feeling only applies in professional networking events in other words personal events when you're at that party at your friend's house etc you don't have that same awkward feeling and so I think a lot of what causes this awkwardness is a sense that either a am I just in this to try and get something out of it in which case you know I'm I'm actually being a bad person in this regard I'm I'm doing what I'm not supposed to do I'm what I'm supposed to do is create value and I'm just looking to extract it the other is that I think everybody I mean if you if you've been in the work world for longer than maybe three or four years you've probably been at one of these events and you've been what I call you've been named badged the name badge is the term that I've going for when you're talking to somebody one of these events and their eyes drift down from your eyes and look at your nametag and you know they see your name maybe your existing job or what you're looking for etcetera and in that moment they decide like this person's not really useful to me and then their eyes drift back up but they never come back to your eyes now they're over your shoulder right now this person's scanning the room looking for somebody else and it only takes one or two of those situations one or two incidents of being named badge to sort of want to throw up your hands and go that this whole thing is useless okay so that's why people don't want to go to that Holiday Inn or down to the conference room at the hotel but why do people cluster together is it because they're they're trying to compensate for that awkwardness what and why don't they go out and talk to new people yeah so so it's there's a couple different factors at play so number one is we do have sort of an ingrown tendency toward homophily is the fancy term or self-similarity we just we like people who are like us we like people who think like us because clearly they're brilliant we like people that have the same background as us because there's more commonalities there and so those things are sort of natural and there's a natural bias towards that you're never sort of gonna interact with those some of this is honestly if you're in that conversation with a new person and you're trading out different questions and you're trying to sort of get to know them time just fuels a lot longer in those scenarios and when you're hanging out with your friends people you already know time flies so a lot of times it's just this uncut that little homophily that little tendency towards results in people having much longer conversations with people they already know and then not realizing how little time is left to get to know other people so I don't know you've got some ideas about ways people can network effectively but I just want to be clear when you're talking about events are you largely talking about mixers at conferences or professional chapters and is that is that what you're getting at here yeah so specifically what I'm referring to are the unstructured times so you'll be at a conference which any any confidence a trade association event or even local chapter association event those are wonderful times to either reconnect with the people that you know in a professional setting but you don't talk to that often or make those new connections but often built into the calendar is that unstructured time and especially when you're on the job hunt there there are meetups you know things like meetup comm or the the unstructured events of that trade association not the learning events are not the volunteerism events but the ones where there is no purpose other than connecting ironically people don't connect at that there is however a lot of research that supports the idea that what the sociologist Brian uzi coined this term shared activities events where there's a different purpose there like learning or like like volunteering a charity etc those events draw out diverse set of people but also sort of encourage those interactions in a little bit different way because we're focused on something else so that sting of awkwardness is sort of lessened so so when I say networking events I'm specifically referring to those unstructured events but by all means do not write off that the trade association for your job for your profession etc altogether but those unstructured events that made you feel awkward anyway if you pay attention to the week in dormant times and you focus on the shared activities you're never gonna need them okay oh and I want to explore that but for people who would are you recommending then David that people skip unstructured events altogether at conferences or meetups or is there a way to to go to those events and still get value and be of service to others so it obviously depends on on you your levels of introversion extraversion if you're investing in other ways to expand your network then you can safely go back to your hotel room and check those emails and not feel guilty about it how ever what I actually recommend that a lot of people do especially if you're at a conference where you've paid you paid a lot of money you're there your goal is to learn but your goal is also to reconnect people I recommend making those plans ahead of time with the weekend dormant times the people you don't see that often but you know we're gonna be that event make a plan with them to meet at that event you know that people are gonna cluster towards self-similar and towards people that they already know so play to that play to the human tendency and say you know you know I'm Monday they've got the the networking hour after the main session when we meet up there and we can chat and then we can see you know and go from there and then one of the things that'll happen is usually people bring people with them so even though your plan is to meet up with one person if he or she brings another person you're good at making a new connection through your existing network which is usually a better way to meet people just in general of getting along and also in developing trust and what we call social capital but it's also playing that event towards its strengths which is people are gonna want to use that event for that anyway why not make that your plan it's just a it's a better way to play to what's what's less awkward and also what tends to work better which is that reconnection peace okay and I want to get to the structured events but before we do that any special advice for people who may be shy or introverted who are following your suggestion they there they've come to that conference there's the happy hour they've made a plan to meet someone but for introverts any special tips yeah the the biggest one is that quality does not it is not subjugated to quantity right a lot of times at these unstructured events that these mixers is networking hours we feel like we're supposed to meet lots of different people and it could be the introverts or the shy people who are kind of kicking themselves oh I only only talked to two or three different people whereas the extroverts sort of worked the room and handed out business cards and did all that stuff a lot of us don't really like anyway but they feel a little bit more comfortable doing that having one or two quality conversations that that stray actually from work and get to know people from multiple different facets it builds what in network science terms we call multiplex a it's a fancy term for understanding and connecting with people in multiple different contexts so if you find that you both have a shared hobby in addition to having the same background at work or if you find that you both grew up in the same section of a the same state you build a sort of uncommon commonality you build multiplexity and that actually makes for a stronger connection moving forward and makes it more likely that you'll keep in touch with that person and so those quality conversations that you may only have with one or two people those are can actually be better than working the room so that's my biggest advice for the for the introverts is a tendency toward shyness people is that having that one or two quality conversations don't kick yourself for that that may actually travel further in the long run than feeling like you're the life of the party okay so unstructured events can have value if you have a plan perhaps you're going to meet someone and expect to it can be a great way to meet their connections as well and but I know you also believe that there's a lot more value that can be come that can come out of structured events and that it makes more sense to focus your networking time there I want to talk about that but first we're going to take a break and when we come back we'll continue our conversation with David burkas who's going to share his advice about networking at events if you're looking for work a job interview is one of the most important business meetings you'll have this year and I'm surprised by the people I meet who don't prepare for interviews hiring managers for example almost always ask what are called behavioral interview questions why would you make up your answer on the spot I've got a new guide that can help it's called 100 behavioral interview questions you need to know get your free copy today go to max less org slash questions employers use behavioral interview questions to explore your fit for a job based on your past experience these can be easy questions to answer if you're prepared why take a chance when you don't have to go to max list org slash questions you'll get a free guide that lays out four steps to answer the most common behavioral interview questions don't wing it at your next job interview think for a moment instead about the most important business meeting you had last year did you present a report to your biggest customer maybe you spoke at your local professional association or perhaps she made the case for your department's new budget whatever the event you prepared didn't you are you doing the same kind of homework before you walk into a job interview your competitors are get your free copy today of 100 behavioral interview questions you need to know go to Max's org slash questions now let's get back to the show we're banking the maxilla studio I'm talking with David burkas he's the author of the new book friend of a friend and David before the break we were talking about our topic this week why you don't need to go to networking events and you were describing that unstructured events that we've all been to at conferences or meetups where you're just walking in the room cold and you don't know anyone and you're not sure what to do and that's as you've laid out is not gonna create a lot of value for our listeners but you're also a big fan of what you call structured events tell us more about that and how they can help people who want to network yeah so so structured events are what we sometimes call shared activities or events where there is a bigger purpose for being there that the term comes from the sociologist Brian Z and actually is co-author Sharon Dunlap and what they say a shared activity or a structured event has to have a couple qualities for it to be an effective way to meet new people but the first is as I said there has to be another reason for being there there has to be an objective and that objective this is the second piece has to have stakes there has to be an actual sort of failure that way you have to participate achieving that objective is the third piece requires interdependence in other words if everybody just does their part individually that's not interdependence so that's not gonna gonna have it so if you have another reason for being there it requires interdependence and there are stakes you can actually fail that's the reason for being there these events actually create conversations that are a little bit different than the who are you and what do you do conversations that happen the unstructured events they build a bond in sort of a different context before the break we were talking about multiplexity so they work better there and they un dug a lot of times paired off with one or two people who are very different from you so they overcome that bias towards self similarity now I realize I've spoken a lot of vague platitudes so let me give you a couple different I guess some concrete examples I laid out the theory very clearly but what kind of events are we talking about at these lunch programs yes sir so I'll give you about lunch program you said I'll give you a great example of one that a good friend of mine plans personally and then I'll give you a conference example so on the personal side one of my good friends is a man named Chris Shem bruh in New York City and Chris plans these dinners he calls his dinners the 747 club because basically dinner is served at 8:00 and it takes 13 minutes to prepare but that 13 minutes is the key what happens is he organizes a group of people usually ten to twelve people to come over to his apartment and he does not have a big sort of fancy New York pad we're talking studio apartment but he makes it work and each person has a role in creating a dinner that he's planned that's usually it's usually pasta he's made the sauce somebody has to make the actual pasta somebody else is on salad somebody else is on desert and he pairs people up especially knowing the people who haven't who don't know each other he pairs them up he gives them tasks all of the tasks are relatively easy again the whole preparation takes 13 minutes but that act of having to work together there are requires interdependence you're paired up there is a different objective than just connecting we are making something and there are stakes you might just end up sort of over cooking the pasta and people don't think it's good but that still steaks it's very low stakes but it still steaks those three things that play make for a way better conversation when people at the dinner table and now eating and make for a much higher likelihood of conversations going on after the dinner people following up etc because they're focused on that other thing the conversation wanders a bit more we drop our scripts we drop the who are you and what do you do script a lot of times and so Chris has now run over 200 of these dinners it's obviously grown his network but it's also create a lot of value for the people that he's in and it costs a couple boxes of pasta and some tomatoes every every week that he puts on in these dinners I think it's a great sort of personal example of like yeah it's a dinner party but it's a little bit different because it leverages that shared activity the it works way better and I think it's a great example because a lot of people can do something similar when I met Chris my wife and I decided we wanted to start doing this but we have two young kids so the idea of an 8 o'clock dinner doesn't work for us but we try once a month to do a Saturday brunch type of thing where come together and somebody's making pancakes somebody else is right the bacon and get a bunch of different people together to leverage it that's on the personal side okay and on the professional side we are listeners obviously are thinking about their job search and career and they may have identified a company or where they want to work or a field they want to transition into after working in another sector what what are some examples of the structured networking events that can help them with goals like that yeah so so on the professional side and it kind of all bleeds together right so if you're starting to do these personal things it'll it'll bleed over but on the professional side what you want to look for is in that that trade association that industry group that local chapter of something or even that company that you're targeting what are the public events where there is more than just connecting what are the public events where there's a learning going on or even better does that local chapter of your professional association do they do a charity drive like a 5k or a Habitat for Humanity day or something like that that would actually be a better thing to invest your time in in terms of an event it by another why is that so David why why doesn't it make sense to go to the local chapter happy hour why is the 5k run better for someone who's pursuing professional goals so so the 5k wonder and specifically being involved in sort of putting it on that meets that criteria of the shared activity there's another reason for being there it's not that unstructured event that creates that awkwardness people drop their scripts it's not so much the who are you and what do you do it's about getting the thing done and so those events end up you end up meeting and having conversations with people that you probably wouldn't have talked to if you were at a couple months back at the the grand networking happy hour and it's also a chance to show off your skills isn't it you know that's actually that's a really good point and I probably should have mentioned it soon or one of the one of the examples we actually talked about in the book is that is a woman brilliant woman in Whitney Johnson who ended up being the the head of a hedge fund by the the legendary Clayton Christensen the disruptive innovation theory guy and the way that Clayton knew her and got to see her skills was not her twenty-something years on Wall Street it was that they both went to the same church and organized the same sort of congregants and business kind of breakfast thing that was a regular monthly event he got to see her leadership skills in that capacity and thought yeah this is it yeah okay I already know she qualified but clearly this is the right person and when you have a shared experience like that it is creating a unique bond either among two people or even a small or larger group doesn't it yeah it creates that sort of shared experience there but you also because a lot of times the conversation wanders they are much more than it does in these happy hours that stay sort of work focused a lot of times so you end up learning about more facets of people humans are multifaceted and the way to build a good connection to them is to understand multiple different fascism and to see different connections beyond just professional similarities etc so there is the in the moment shared experience but you're also much more likely to learn things about that person and to connect with them in ways that you wouldn't if it stayed a hundred percent sort of professional who are you and what do you do conversation I can imagine listeners thinking well this sounds good like a great way to meet new people or particularly if I'm new in town but how is this gonna help me find a job or move ahead in my career well how can what what kinds of results do you see for for professionally for people who do these kinds of things how does it help them yeah so ultimately the number one most important thing that a network can provide you is information so beyond just the fact that we're social creatures and introverts and extroverts alike still like relationships its benefit from all that etc networks provide you information and the more information and more diverse information the better a decision you can make that can be about what company to do what you want to do in your own career but that can also be about how you end up getting that in road to that dream company or into that dream job ultimately networks provide you information and you want it from as many and it has diverse sources as you can in order to make the best decisions and to follow the best path and when people have these experiences build these connections and grow their network what are your best tips David about how to act on that information yeah so the first thing is that depending on when you've met them there is a there's still a level of kind of follow-up work that has to go it's one thing to meet someone and then just say oh we should we should chat again sometime soon and then never do or oh we should get lunch someday and then never do one of the beauties of these share activities is that you learn about the person in multiple different dimensions of them and that provides you multiple different follow-up opportunities you might be able to follow up with them in in a professional context and end right away ask some more questions about them or you might just have found out that you both you loved the same movie franchise and when the next one comes out you can send them a quick sort of follow-up message but over time what you're looking to do is follow up to build a relationship and build what we call social capital to the point where you're not doing that awkward sort of how can I help you and here's how you can help me thing but where it just becomes a natural outcropping of the conversation most people if you build up that social capital and you build up that relationship with some follow up most people you don't even need to ask them for help most people will get at some point in that conversation that you're looking to make a transition or you're looking to find new work and will prolong for ways to help you if you're building that relationship and you're investing in it and lots of different follow-up conversations anything you recommend listeners avoid in growing those relationships any don'ts yes so people can smell desperation a long ways away and and they can smell it through email too right so I would be very careful about how quickly you are asking for help if they're not Pro offering it I would be trying to offer help and offer value the majority of the time and you can you can mention what you need and what you're looking for but to make the direct ask I think you wait several different a can be months or it can be weeks it just depends on the conversation and how in-depth or health how sparse it is but you wait to build up that social capital before you make that ask most of the time if you build up a social capital you won't have to make the ask so you'll be okay well David's been a terrific conversation tell us what's next for you so I mean friend of a friend is still out and we're doing a lot of work to to put that book in a lot of people's hands I'm I'm obviously a big fan of this different approach to networking and that's not just advice and here's how I did it but here's what's going on and the greater network that I'm looking to be a bigger part of the other thing we're doing that's been a lot of fun is since about midway through last year we've started posting work related I always say tips that'll help you do your best work ever we've started posting them online as a video we call it the daily burke it's about a two to three-minute video every single day on whichever social media platform you like we're probably posting the video on that and that's been a lot of fun just because of the feedback that you get as well I know people can learn more about your new book friend-of-a-friend and the daily burke your video series by going to david burkas dot-com David given all the useful tips you shared today what's the one thing you want our audience to remember about why they don't need to go to networking events yeah if you do the work and you look up the right events to attend then these unstructured events are kind of worthless and that the other thing is that if you're doing the follow-up to reach back out to those weak times and those people you haven't talked to in a while or even the new connections you made it the last event that you still need to sort of nurture and develop that is probably all of the information and help that you need so going and stirring a drink awkwardly in the corner at one of these other events that's not going to move the ball forward as much as continuing to invest in the relationships you already have okay terrific advice David thank you for being on the show today oh thank you so much for having me networking is one of my favorite subjects and I really appreciated the points that David made about how to do it well and what to avoid doing one big idea that ran through the conversation for me was the importance of relationships in the end networking is about people and it's about relationships and making authentic connections it's not about collecting business cards and if you're going to do it well you've got to prepare and you're gonna think about what you want to get out of the experience when you go to a structured or unstructured event and that takes preparation but if you do it well you'll build relationships that will give you satisfaction and allow you to serve others but it takes preparation job interviews take preparation too and you can count on people asking you behavioral interview questions when you walk into that interview room are you ready if you're not or you want to brush up your interview skills we've got a guide that can help one hundred behavioral interview questions you need to know it's free and you can get it by going to Macs lesson org slash questions again that's max list org slash questions well thank you for joining us for this week's episode of find your dream job and please join us next Wednesday we'll have two guests Heather Gordon and Moira Farnsworth a bully Welch they'll explain how staffing agencies work it's going to be a great episode it's also our 200th episode we hope to see you then until next time thanks for letting us help you find your dream job

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