On networking and building connections

Here’s author and Wharton School professor Adam Grant’s latest piece, “Good News for Young Strivers: Networking Is Overrated.” And he connects the networking behavior of many young professionals to those of many of his college students:

“My students often believe that if they simply meet more important people, their work will improve. But it’s remarkably hard to engage with those people unless you’ve already put something valuable out into the world. That’s what piques the curiosity of advisers and sponsors. Achievements show you have something to give, not just something to take. Sure, you can fire off cold emails to people you respect — they’re just a click away — but you’ll be lucky if 2 percent even reply. The best way to attract a mentor is to create something worthy of the mentor’s attention. Do something interesting, and instead of having to push your way in, you’ll get pulled in. The network comes to you.”

I think that message has equal application for high school students who believe that attending a prestigious college will guarantee connections that will help you be successful. The best connections are those that come to you because you’re what I’ve called a mentor magnet, not those you built just so you could benefit from the personal link.

Here are two past posts, one of mine, and one with wise words from author and Harvard grad Jay Mathews on the value (or lack thereof) of alumni connections in determining your post-college success.