When we’re looking for a change in our lives, we’re told to “Go to networking events.” It’s not the worst advice, but the fortune-cookie depth of the aid skirts the fact that the help we need is very often already in our network.
So why do we love new connections more than our best connections? Glad you asked.
We Can Be Whoever The Hell We Want
In any new connection, the slate is clean. Our veneer is polished. Our Bullshit Slinger is on full blast, and our ideal self is on full display. They don’t know about the real you yet, the not-so-perfect you, the you whose self confidence might be dangling off a precipice. Whatever story, whatever reality you want to tell is the only reality this new person is going to hear. Bombs away!
New Connections = Free Favors
God bless new people and our collective need to be liked! I had a friend once tell me that when his girlfriend broke up with him she said, “I wish you gave me half the attention that you give complete strangers.” Ouch. But so often goes the social dance of acceptance. If there are mutual interests identified in a new connection, the relationship is christened with commuted favors, or a favor in return for being respected.
This is not a bad deal for anyone involved. People get help, people make new connections, and the reciprocity engine rumbles on its journey around the track.
A New Connection Can Solve All Of Our Problems
Well, we think so. But behaviorally at least, we might be right. More than just our desire to be liked, we love to share our competence whenever possible. We feel useful and good about ourselves that someone needed our expertise about something. What’s this? You need my expertise or rolodex to help you solve your problem? By all means!
We Forget Who We Know
Let’s see…I have 1001 friends on Facebook and +600 connections on Linkedin and I can probably only name about 50 of those people off the top of my head. So when the time comes for me to remember who does what and who knows whom, I’m overwhelmed. So, hey new lady standing next to me! I don’t feel like rummaging through my contacts right now. Maybe you can help me out?
We Don’t Really Have A Clue What We Want
For us to reach out to a connection on Linkedin to introduce us to someone else means that we’d have to figure out for ourselves what it is exactly we’re looking for. We’d then have to present ourselves in perfect form because we wouldn’t want to botch up this one possible perfect opportunity and we wouldn’t want to make our colleague look like an idiot due to our not knowing what the hell we were doing when we asked for the intro in the first place. Gross, right? Who wants to go through all that?
In meeting someone new, we kind of hope that they’ll figure it out for us without us having to go on reconnaissance/ass-kissing missions to decide what our next move is.
Social Hierarchy Is At Stake
We pretend to want to build movements, pop up shops, businesses or careers when really what we so often want is to be heard and sympathized with.
The reason we don’t actively seek feedback from those in our circles as much as we should is because we secretly hate asking our friends for help. Our friends and our trusted connections might have heard our previous pleas so we’re a little scared to ping them again regarding the same hurdle we’ve been tripping over since the Sydney Olympics.
We say to ourselves, If I reach out to one of my contacts and admit that I need help, will they respect me less or judge me more? Will they call me out on my bullshit? Will I be annoying them? Will they tell everyone they know that I’m a helpless mass of humanity? The answer to these questions is always NO, but we still get caught up in the barbed wire we forgetfully laid out in front of ourselves.
So instead, we steal the time of someone new because they won’t judge us. They’re trying to be liked and useful in this new relationship. Perfect!
What To Do About This Tomfoolery
Are there some connections better than others? Of course.
Are there some people you meet who expand your network to new levels? Sure.
But at some point you’ve met enough people to move forward.
At some point your network is so well-connected and intertwined that you can do whatever you want. You can get a meaningful intro and you can get a meeting.
They say the power of your network is your network squared. So if there are even 300 people in your Linkedin network, that’s 90,000 people within your grasp (Not that kind of grasp, creepo).
But in order to take advantage of this, you’ll have to decide what it is you want (GASP!).You’ll have to stop hunting the networking golden goose with that rusty silver bullet you’ve been lugging in your pocket and instead, choose to help yourself by reaching out to the network you’ve already cultivated.
Go on Simplist and create a few lists of people/industries you’ve been interested in learning about, or working for. For instance, the other day I asked myself, I wish I knew someone who worked with HR at a big company! I should hit up some networking events. After a quick entry on Simplist I realized, Oh wait. I already do know people in HR, apparently. Actually I know dozens and dozens of them.
Figure out who on those lists you’d be comfortable reaching out to to gain more knowledge about the person/company you’re interested in meeting/working for/learning about.
You already know who you need to know. You’re just scared to realize it because the next move is all on you now.