In 1973 in the American Journal of Sociology, Mark Granovetter published a now-famous study, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” about social networks. Granovetter found that most people find jobs not through close social connections, such as a family member or good friend, but through acquaintances. So, yes, if you are looking for a job, or would like to change jobs, you really should accept the invitation to that get-together and be your friend’s plus one in an effort to meet new people and reconnect with those you maybe only meet once before. I once got an interview from someone I met in a café.
For many, and sometimes myself, the importance of networking is the unfortunate reality. My ideal evening most often involves sweatpants, a book, some hot tea, and a piece of chocolate. To gracefully balance a glass of wine and appetizers while meeting strangers after work is not my idea of an energizing evening. But like it or not, the importance of networking cannot be discounted when looking for new opportunities.
Some people go so far as to claim moral opposition to networking. In my observation, these are also usually the people most apprehensive about networking. They want to find a job on their own – fair and honest. Networking is not unfair or dishonest. Unless you happen to be the heir of an empire, seldom few employers are going to feel obligated to hire you just because you know someone. A courtesy interview is still an interview.
If you are not convinced that networking is important or that it’s morally wrong, think about your own willingness to help others and share your experiences. Most people like to feel their knowledge, experience, and connections count for something. Asking for help can be a compliment.