Dear Dignified Dictionary Officials,
Photobomb, emoji, ghosting, and countless other words have been recognized as official dictionary words in the past decade. If new words are going to be added, might I suggest removing one too: Networking.
More specifically, if networking can’t be removed all together, let’s make permanent attempts at ghosting it as career advice. And here’s my reason.
In coaching students to find work opportunities, I’ve found myself teaching basics of networking and how to leverage technology and resources to one’s advantage. While I’m a believer in networking as a job-search strategy, I’ve realized it often hits on glazed eyes. Almost instantly upon uttering the word “networking,” student attention drops and faces of despair emerge.
For starters, there appears to be an almost inherently icky feeling and misinformed narrative to networking. Students interpret networking as a one-sided transactional relationship where they put themselves out there to strangers to ask for a favor opposed to a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. With this misunderstanding, networking is more closely related to a job interview than a standard conversation - and creates feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Who wants to voluntarily sign up for that?
Next, when asking students what they think when they hear the word “networking”—they associate it with something only seasoned professionals do. Go ahead and try it. The responses and reactions are fun (or sad, depending on your outlook). One student I encountered stated that networking events are something only parents attend and are forced to go to. This sounds more like an obligation than a potentially energizing learning opportunity. For a student to hear the word “networking,” it’s like telling a toddler it’s time to sleep. A parent knows that this ensues anything but going to bed. Telling a student to network literally pits networking against anything else the person would rather be doing.
Lastly, put yourself in the shoes of college students. I’ve never heard a student say, “Heck yes, it’s Friday. Time to network!” While I can’t guarantee this, I’m almost certain these words have never been uttered. Plus, college students don’t network by choice—they hang or meet-up or chill. Or maybe just talk. Yes, let’s not over dramatize this. It’s talking. I overheard a student say, “I talked to this one person who worked at [company A] and they recommended I talk to [person’s name]. I then got an interview and eventually the job.” In this albeit too easy scenario, networking was never mentioned but talking was. In other words, the strategy was successfully adopted through a mere reframing of the situation.
If the battle is to educate job seekers on non-traditional ways of finding employment or internships, then getting people to buy into the concept should be mission critical.
Call networking something else. Students may then actually start applying new skills.