Let's Connect! aka Why I Hate Networking

03/12/2015 10:54 am ET | Updated May 12, 2015

Some people would say I am a Master Networker; however that is far from accurate. Yes, I have 5,000 executives in my rolodex, but I don't attend networking functions or anything attended by the public.

When I shifted from technology (CIO) to sales 15 years ago, my strategy was to attend networking events and as an early adopter of LinkedIn, connect to as many people as possible. Huge mistake! I never met a client at a networking event, and most of the people I connected with on LinkedIn either asked me for money, introductions or free hotel rooms. Ugh! So let me tell you the strategy that did work -- connecting as opposed to networking.

For the record, my name is Mark Wayman, and my 15 minutes of fame was two software companies. One went public on the NASDAQ and the other (counter-terrorism software) was acquired by IBM. For the last 10 years I have owned an Executive Recruiting firm focused on gaming and high tech. Compensation starts at $100,000, and last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars. Here we go!

I am NOT a LION - Let's start with LinkedIn. As mentioned previously, I was an early adopter, and a huge fan. Use it every day. I started out connecting to everyone and had 2,500 connections in a month. Then the solicitations started rolling in. Mostly from people I did not know and had never met. Most popular one was, "You know Tony Hsieh at Zappos, can you intro me?" Uh... no. Sorry LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers that connect to everyone), we will agree to disagree. Now I only connect to executives I know personally, or that were referred to me by my friends. My philosophy is that if you are going to "connect" to someone on LinkedIn, you must be open to helping them. And I only help people that I know and trust.

Introductions and Referrals - The #1 issue with LinkedIn is cold calls from people asking for favors. They ask for introductions and referrals, jobs, free tickets and hotel rooms. In my case, mostly jobs. Although most people have good hearts, there are plenty of carpetbaggers and schnorrers looking for a handout. I happily provide referrals when there is a major value proposition for both parties, and only submit candidates when they are an exact match for a job. No cold calls -- by referral only. My reputation rides on every resume I submit, every referral I make and every favor I hand out. Referrals are like a checking account, keep in mind that you need to make a deposit before you can make a withdrawal.

Connecting with Recruiters on LinkedIn - Because I'm an Executive Recruiter, I get a dozen connection requests each day from the unemployed. I only accept resumes by referral. There are plenty of recruiters that will represent everyone and anyone; however as a boutique Executive Recruiter I'm very selective since I can only represent a handful of candidates. My advice on Recruiters is to work with one you have a personal relationship with. The good ones don't take cold calls. Don't have any relationships? Get referred to a recruiter by a peer.

Why Networking Events Don't Work - Based on my experience, any event open to the public does not work. Here are a few of the folks I met at "networking" events. See if you agree.

  • The Lush - He is there for exactly one reason: the open bar. Stands in one spot getting wasted and handing out his business cards. You don't have to look far to find them.
  • The Financial Advisor - Wants to invest a million dollars for you, regardless of the fact you just met. Do high net worth people really give money to someone they just met? I don't. My private wealth folks have been with me for ten or twenty years.
  • The Job Seeker - Been unemployed for three years, but still in there swinging. And I totally have compassion for anyone that is out of work, but as an Executive Recruiter, I only represent executives I know and trust. Not folks I met for 15 minutes at a networking event.
  • The Schnorrer - The worst person you can meet at a networking event! Will ask you straight out for money. If not at the event, he will "call down" on you the next day. Always claims to be high net worth, but always needs YOUR money to fund his dreams.

The Godfather's Sit Down - When I figured out that networking events were not my cup of tea, I created my own personal mixer called The Godfather's Sit Down. People had been calling me The Godfather of Las Vegas for years because I had helped a few folks with jobs, favors, and referrals. The Sit Down is a mixer for my friends, clients and business partners with only one purpose -- for them to meet each other. No sales, marketing, promoting or soliciting. THAT is why successful executives don't attend events. They don't want to be SOLICITED! No one enjoys being hammered for introductions, jobs or money. And for a second reason -- high level executives are short on time, so it needs to be productive. At my event, like-minded, good-hearted, GIVERS have the opportunity to meet each other in a safe environment, free of the sales, self-promotion and soliciting. We do not network, we connect. No agenda, just a chance to relax, have a drink and shake a few hands. Do deals get done? Yes. Do people get jobs? Yes. Are friendships formed? For sure, however we have no agenda other than getting high quality individuals together.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Here are two examples of the right, and wrong, way to connect. Years ago I hosted Sit Downs for Chief Information Officers (CIOs). Only half of them would show up, and at least two or three of the "no shows" would send me resumes the next morning asking for $500,000 jobs. I kid you not, and apparently they saw nothing wrong with that behavior. Now why would I represent someone at that level when they are a "no show" at my event? But let's not stereotype ALL Chief Information Officers. I recently received the resumes of two CIOs by referral. I told them to drop by my next Sit Dow so we could meet in person. Not only did they attend, but one actually scheduled an hour prior to the event for a one on one conversation. Now that's what I'm talking about! A second example is a "C" level executive I met at an event. He was new to town, so I told him, "If you need anything, call me." When I followed up he sent an email stating, "I don't have an interest in a relationship with you." Whaaaaat? That was a first. You guessed it, a year later he is on the street and sending me his resume. On the positive side, recently met a CEO and he invited me to lunch. Found out we had a dozen things in common. I told him if he ever makes a move, make me his first call. Remember, treating people right never goes out of style.