When I was growing up in Dobbs Ferry (NY), an important activity for almost every boy I knew was collecting, trading and competing for baseball cards. Topps was all we knew, and every new season offered a new quest for collecting the whole set. We would trade our doubles, search hard for the best players, and sometimes risk it all with flipping and scaling cards. The scaling option, in which players compete to scale cards to be closest to the wall, was usually a bad one. It was a game of skill and there were a few guys who couldn’t be beat. If you were going against Joe Giuliano, you could save everyone lots of time by just handing him your cards and moving along to your next class. He was that good. Watching him play was like watching a machine. Scale, grunt defeat, watch Joe take the cards, repeat.
I wonder how many people who stack up contacts using LinkedIn view the process much like the search for the missing players, with the difference being that the roster of players counts in the millions, rather than less than a thousand each year. I wonder if the quality of the connections is about as high. For those who have amassed 950 LinkedIn contacts, have they ever thought, “Would MaryJo in Seattle take my call?”
Networking activities need to be a lot more than a few clicks in the latest social media tool. Like anything else in life, your networking activities will only be as good as the effort that you put into them. Find common interests and make meaningful connections. Try making a phone call or sending a personal note, something much more than, “I would like to add you to my professional network.”
Think about your efforts. Have they been meaningful and have they led to important professional connections, creating a web of colleagues who might actually care about the relationship with you? Or have your activities been more focused on body count? If your networking is similar to that of a bunch of 12 year olds flipping Reggie Jacksons, you have some work to do.