I think sometimes, when we say we hate networking, we actually mean we hate networkers. Not all networkers, mind you. There’s a certain breed of networker that rubs many of us the wrong way. We dread encountering such a person, but almost more than that, we dread becoming such a person.
You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? This person, who I’ll call The Hustler, is pushy. They go to every event, especially if it involves suits and ties and glad handing. They hustle hard. While they are talking to one person, they are constantly looking over that person’s shoulder, trying to see who else they’d like to talk to. They go for volume, working a room like their ultimate goal is to interact with everyone in it, regardless of the quality of those interactions.
You get the sense they aren’t really interested in you – unless they think you might buy what they’re selling. In that case, they are SUPER interested in you, but it’s less about you and more about what you can do for them. The Hustler is really concerned with image – very eager to appear successful, busy, and popular. It’s difficult to tell what is really going on with them behind the facade.
The Hustler might also be full of ‘helpful’ but oppressive advice. They have strong opinions about what you should do, even if they know next to nothing about you, and they won’t take no for an answer. A Hustler once came to one of my networking meetups, an hour and a half late, and immediately launched into giving the participants who were still there his own networking advice. It was just gross. He even had handouts. That was a textbook example of how there’s often something almost desperate about this person, something frantic. They might be slick and charming, but it’s all superficial.
Do Hustlers Ever Prosper?
I’m not sure if this approach to networking actually works for anyone. I suspect that if you hustle hard enough, you might get enough volume of connections that you can eventually get what you want. Like, if you’re a consultant and you need 10 solid contracts a year to make ends meet and you hustle up 20+ connections every week, that’s over 1,000 people a year. If .1% of them become clients, you’ll get what you need out of your networking efforts, I guess.
But doesn’t that sound exhausting? And would it leave you with enough time to actually do the work you’re trying to do for these clients? When will you find time to cultivate the relationships you already have – for example, keeping in touch with past clients who might hire you again?
The Hustler probably thinks they are a good networker, when in fact they are working WAY too hard for the amount of benefit they generate.
In my next post, I’ll explore what might lead someone to behave this way, how it makes networking harder for all of us, and how to deal with it.