Top 13 Misconceptions Around Networking

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Illustration depicting Misconceptions Around Networking, showing individuals in bubbles symbolizing communication barriers in a professional setting.

Time to Read: 10 minutes

Networking is something I feel strongly about. Mainly because I believed in almost all of the prevalent myths and misconceptions around networking that I’m about to share with you when I was a college student. 

As a hardcore introvert who was an international student with no family and 0 connections in North America, I am a prime example of how networking is a skill that can be developed. 

In this post, I will dismantle commonly held – wrong beliefs about networking. 

Without a doubt, networking is a skill that ANYONE can develop and refine. 

I acknowledge that it is not easy. But with enough conviction and practice, you too can become exceptional at networking. Let’s start by learning about the top 13 misconceptions and myths, held by college students and graduates. 

Misconception #1: Networking is Only for Extroverts

Belief: Networking is often perceived as a playground for the extroverted, where success hinges on one’s ability to be outgoing and socially proactive. I certainly used to think so. Afterall, just the thought of networking alone made me feel tremendous anxiety and dread. I’ve always admired – wondered how one could be so comfortable with people (more on this in the future). 

Although it’s true that extroverts are better at meeting new people, it’s not true that introverts cannot network as effectively, if not more so. 

Truth: Networking isn’t exclusive to any personality type. 

Introverts bring unique strengths to networking – like the ability to listen actively and forge deeper, more meaningful connections. You don’t have to be the loudest in the room to stand out. You can achieve this by having quality one-on-one conversations or through written communication.

Misconception #2: Networking is Confined to Professional Environments

Belief: The idea that networking only happens in professional settings like conferences and business meetings is prevalent among students.

This is the wrong mentality. Networking is the art of creating and nurturing meaningful relationships. By definition, this can happen in any setting. 

Truth: Networking opportunities can be found in everyday situations – from community events and volunteer activities to casual gatherings and online forums. Even playing video games with others and voice calling on Discord is a form of networking! 

Recent reports find that 38% of working professionals consider places like bars and restaurants to be effective places to network.

Networking is about recognizing and utilizing the opportunities to connect with others in various environments. You can form professional relationships in both expected and unexpected places.

Misconception #3: Networking Necessitates Inauthenticity

Belief: A common deterrent to networking is the belief that it requires a façade or inauthentic behavior. The fear of needing to “sell oneself” can make networking feel disingenuous. 

While it is true that you will encounter people who approach networking this way, this is not the most effective way to network. The essence of effective networking lies in authenticity. 

Truth: True networking is about presenting your genuine self and forming connections based on real interests and values. It’s about having honest conversations where both parties can provide and receive value. Authentic interactions not only feel more comfortable but also lay the foundation for lasting professional relationships.

Don’t forget that you can choose who to engage and nurture relationships with. 

Misconception #4: Networking is Self-Serving

Belief: One of the major misconceptions about networking is that it’s a self-centered activity focused only on personal gain. If you are going into a networking event thinking along the lines of:

  • What can you do for me?
  • Are you even worth my time?
  • Can you open doors for me – if not you’re wasting my time.

Your mindset may be part of the problem. This perspective can make you less likely to want to participate in networking opportunities, especially if you think that everyone else thinks the same way.

Effective networking is far from being a one-sided affair. It’s about mutual support and exchange of value.

Truth: When networking is done right, it’s a symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit. It could be about sharing knowledge, resources, or opportunities. By approaching networking with a giving mindset and of curiosity, you will find yourself having more fulfilling conversations.

PRO TIP: If you feel like you have nothing to offer or add to a conversation, being an attentive listener, asking thoughtful questions, and just being genuinely interested in what someone is talking about is more than enough. 

Misconception #5: Networking is Exclusive to Certain Disciplines

Belief: There’s a common belief that networking is most relevant for business or STEM fields, but this isn’t the case. Although networking is typically only part of your curriculum if you’re a business student, it doesn’t mean that it is an activity exclusive to them. 

Truth: Networking is a universal tool crucial for every academic and professional field. Whether you are in the arts, humanities, social sciences, or any other domain, networking can play a key role in your career opportunities. 

Networking in various fields might look different, but the core principle remains the same – building authentic, mutually beneficial connections that support and advance your professional journey.

Misconception #6: Networking Only Aids Professional Goals

Belief: Often, networking is viewed solely as a means to a professional end – landing a job or finding a mentor.

Truth: However, the benefits of networking extend well beyond professional achievements. Networking can be a significant contributor to personal growth and development.

Through networking, you gain diverse perspectives, develop interpersonal skills, and build a support system that can be invaluable in navigating both professional challenges and personal endeavors. It opens doors to new experiences and learnings that contribute to your overall growth as an individual.

Misconception #7: A Large Network is Mandatory

Belief: A common myth in networking is that success is measured by the size of one’s network. This can lead to a focus on amassing contacts rather than cultivating meaningful relationships. In reality, the quality of your connections is far more important than the quantity.

Truth: A smaller network of well-maintained, strong relationships can be more beneficial than a vast network of superficial contacts. It’s better to have a select group of connections that genuinely understand your abilities and can vouch for you, which is often more impactful than a larger network of acquaintances.

Misconception #8: Networking Within Comfort Zones is Sufficient

Belief: A common networking pitfall is confining efforts to familiar circles, such as classmates and close colleagues. While it’s comfortable, this approach limits the scope and diversity of your network.

Truth: Effective networking involves stepping out of your comfort zone and connecting with people from different backgrounds, industries, and experiences. 

Expanding your network beyond your immediate circle exposes you to new perspectives and opportunities. It can lead to unexpected collaborations and insights that wouldn’t be possible within a homogeneous group. Embrace the unfamiliar and you might be surprised by the value these new connections bring to both your professional and personal life.

Misconception #9: Networking Doesn’t Require Preparation

Belief: You can just show up to a networking event – hope for the best, or wing it.

Truth: Networking might seem like a casual interaction, but going into it unprepared can mean missed opportunities. Preparation is key to making the most out of networking events and encounters. This doesn’t mean you need a scripted plan for every interaction, but having a good understanding of who you’re meeting and the context can guide your conversations more effectively.

Research the event, the attendees, and consider what you want to achieve. Prepare some talking points and questions that can ignite meaningful conversations. Being prepared also reduces anxiety, allowing you to be more present and engaged in conversations.

Misconception #10: Networking Yields Immediate Results

Belief: Networking is often mistakenly seen as a quick fix to immediate career needs. Some are under the impression that a successful networking session equates to finding a job opportunity.

Truth: In reality, the true benefits of networking are often long-term. You should never go into a networking event expecting instant results. Building a solid network requires patience and persistence. Nurturing these relationships takes effort and time.

Although this is intuitive when spelled out, the lack of immediate payoff is one of the most common complaints I’ve observed when people say they “wasted time” going to an event.

This is the wrong mentality as you go to networking events to network, not to get a job. If you play your cards right, sometimes, a connection made today can lead to an opportunity months or even years down the line.

Misconception #11: Networking is Exclusive to the Wealthy

Belief: Some have the notion that effective networking is exclusive to the privileged.

If anything, I consider this an excuse.

Truth: Whether someone comes from privilege and has a head start in terms of network has nothing to do with your ability to build your own network. Networking is the art and skill of forming and nurturing meaningful relationships. It isn’t something bound by socio-economic status. 

Universities, online forums, local community events, and professional organizations often host networking events that are open to a wide range of individuals. The key is to seek out these opportunities and make the most of them, regardless of your background.

Misconception #12: Networking is Limited to In-Person Interactions

Belief: You can only form lasting, meaningful professional relationships at in-person events.

Truth: Today, networking is easier and more accessible than ever before with the inception of digital platforms such as LinkedIn and Eventbrite. You can connect with professionals across the globe with a few clicks, opening up new opportunities that were previously inaccessible. Maintaining and growing your professional relationships online has become simple.

Recent studies show that 40% of people prefer to network online as opposed to in-person

No longer are you limited to networking in person. 

Misconception #13: Networking is Not Necessary for Those with Strong Skills or Qualifications

Belief: There’s a belief that if you have strong skills or qualifications, networking isn’t as important. 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your skills should speak for themselves.

Truth: The reality is that your soft skills are just as important, if not more so than your technical competence and credentials. That’s just the reality of the professional world.  

Experts suggest that an estimated 70 – 80% of all available jobs are never posted. More notably, 80% of jobs are filled via a professional network connection.

Which is why even the most skilled individuals should network. It’s not just about what you know, but also who you know. Networking can uncover hidden job opportunities, provide industry insights, and open doors that skills alone cannot. It will make you more visible and connected in your chosen field.

Conclusion: Debunking Misconceptions Around Networking

In dismantling these misconceptions, I hope you have clarity and a better understanding of the true essence of networking. It is not something exclusive. It’s a skill and an art form that is accessible for all. As with any skill, it will take time and practice to become good, but I can guarantee you that it is well worth the effort. 

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The human who runs the ship. Occasional writer, occasional web developer. Yes, this is the guy who hired a raccoon (if you know, you know).

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