Having attended a conference last weekend, I meet a lot of people and had a lot of conversations…and had a lot of conversations about meeting new people.
One thing that kept coming up was people’s dislike of utilitarian networking – the idea that, especially when at a conference, you should talk to specific kinds of people or intentionally work on building certain relationships out of a pure utilitarian desire to leverage that relationship for your own good.
Perhaps I simply haven’t attended enough conferences, but I don’t find this concern very…concerning. To be clear, I do find the very idea of utilitarian networking to be distasteful, but I don’t find networking to be inherently utilitarian.
Or perhaps I’m just not doing it right.
In a previously life, I would go to social events and not talk to anyone. Not necessarily out of distaste for networking, but out of a general malaise about life. Then, some how, at some point along the line, I started talking to people.
And what I found was that people are really interesting.
Every conversation is like a window into a whole other universe of personhood. And the less you know the person, the more there is to learn.
So now when I go to events, I talk to people. As many people as meaningfully possible. Not out of a utilitarian drive to advance myself through connection, but out of a genuine desire to meet and learn from other.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I just though that’s what networking is.