Networking Events

Being in law school I am surrounded by people acutely-concerned about their careers. Not so that they can get into a position of power so that they can help alleviate injustice, or so that they can get the job of their dreams, but so that they can make a shit-ton of money, pay off their student loans, and lease an imported luxury vehicle. I am bombarded by emails and invitations to “networking events” and opportunities to build my resumé. It is as if people’s entire lives are supposed to be about making themselves into a marketable product and a star employee rather than an educated citizen and a gentleman.

I am happy to go to interesting events covering issues in the law and public policy. And I am thrilled to make friends who have similar interests and motivations. But by labeling something as a “networking event” I am robbed of that opportunity. I am no longer a human, pondering the issues of our time and making connections with people who have similar passions. But rather, the entire interaction becomes one of opportunity and ulterior motives. I have to question if the person talking to me is doing so because they are interested in the topic or because they see a chance at being able to take advantage of our relationship sometime down the road by getting a job or favor out of me.

Explicitly calling something a networking event takes the formerly detestable practices of sycophants and psychopaths and holds them up on a pedestal as something successful people have to do to get an edge. It preaches to people that the purpose of a relationship with your colleague is to use him for what he might be able to do for you. It makes a mockery of sincerity and genuine friendship.

The worst of it is that career counselors are preaching that this lack of morals is a skill one must adopt in order to thrive in the new economy. I don’t deny that a lot of job offers come out of personal connections, but here’s a thought: If you are genuinely interested in what you are doing, you won’t be able to help but to have engaging conversations with people about it when you are at talks, seminars or conferences about related issues. Inevitably some friendships will form among those contacts and inevitably career opportunities will come out of those friendships. If you aren’t going to these events because you are genuinely interested in the topic, maybe you are in the wrong field. If your only motivation for going is to try to form some shallow friendships that you can one day take advantage of, you might want to have a second thought about it, rather than just accept the admonition from career-advisers that it is something everybody does and has to do.

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  • By FI at 28 & ER at 31 : Lacking Ambition on November 30, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    [...] Happily, the way my rental house, stock investments and school are going, I ought to be financially independent before I’m 28 (late next fall). That’s with living expenses hovering around $15k/year and counting land-lording income. I suppose I could just ‘retire’ at 28 and not work. But having spent eight years in school and having a bit of an itch to work in our court system, I still may have a go at a 2 year stint in either a clerkship or as a low-paid, public servant, criminal attorney after graduation. They are jobs that are fun for someone with the right interests and, fortunately, since they don’t tend to pay all that well, it means they aren’t overly difficult to find since so many law students are only even in school at all because they have dollar signs in their eyes. [...]