Ask a professional: Networking

Andrew GarnerWith a reputation for straight talking, Andrew Garner (BCom Industrial Economics and Business Studies, 1965) has taught career management at Business Schools around the world from Harvard to Singapore. The Edge asked his advice about making connections.

Q. What is networking?

A. Networking is a grossly overrated notion simply because most people interpret it incorrectly and spend too much time with people in the same situation as themselves. That is not what networking is. I even feel a sense of frustration with the use of the word because it is so badly misunderstood. Networking is not talking to your peers – it is reaching out to people who are not like you.

Q. What is your advice for effective networking?

A. The word networking ought to be replaced by the words research and interaction. The questions for anyone outside of your field or situation should be: ‘Is what I’m saying making sense?’ and ‘Can you introduce me to somebody who you think might be helpful?’ In terms of your peer group, they can be useful for the validation of your career ambitions, but not for asking questions for which they also do not have the answers.

Q. Why is effective networking important?

A. If you have made up your mind what you want to do for a career, and properly explored your candidacy for it; research and interaction as I have spoken about above are mission critical. Applying for jobs is now all about differentiation, and people who are more advanced in their career are best placed to be critical and ask the tough questions necessary to help you set yourself apart.

Q. What are the pitfalls or common mistakes people make?

A. I don’t think social networking sites are useful because you are likely to be talking to other people in exactly the same situation as you. Economists should be talking to scientists, scientists to engineers, engineers to artists and so on. This is how your ideas and presentation will be properly scrutinised and improved.