Don't waste your time trying to network -- here's what you should be doing instead

Whoever came up with the concept of “networking” must not have had any other responsibilities.

Because who else would have the time to craft compelling cold emails to execs they admire, and invite old coworkers to coffee, and find industry events in their city where they can rub elbows with potential future employers?

It just seems kind of unrealistic. Oh, and by the way, it’s not even that helpful.

At least, that’s according to Wharton professor Adam Grant. In a New York Times op-ed, Grant argues that while making connections can make you more successful, more often than not it works the other way: Achieving success helps you make connections.

Grant says he learned this concept the hard way: “I once emailed an entrepreneur I admired and got nothing in response. Some months later he contacted me out of the blue, with no memory that I had tried to get in touch before. He had attended a talk I gave and wanted to meet — now he had proof that I could add value.”

Grant also cites a 2010 study published in Administrative Science Quarterly that found radiologists who had performed the best later boasted the most robust professional networks.

It’s worth noting that Grant is hardly recommending you work in isolation. Grant is also the author of “Give and Take,” in which he explains that “givers” — people who genuinely try to help others — are generally the people who get ahead.

In other words, a professional network built naturally, and consisting of mutually beneficial relationships, is OK. A professional network that consists of people you only call when you need something? Not so much.

That said, if you feel like you need other people’s help to do great work, there’s no shame in reaching out. Career coach and former Googler Jenny Blake previously told Business Insider about the benefits of career “drafting,” or asking someone you admire if you can help with any work overflow they don’t have the resources to handle.

That way, you simultaneously make connections and gain work experience.

Bottom line: Don’t overextend yourself trying to meet everyone influential in your field. Find something you’re good at, do a stellar job at it, and those influential people may notice.

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