As an associate professor in organizational behavior at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, Inga Carboni has spent a substantial amount of time working with both undergraduate and graduate students to help them build their communication skills and develop effective networks. Through this line of work, Carboni has noticed one apparent trend: people do not like networking. She describes how “every time I talk about networking, people have an unenthusiastic and obligatory approach to it.”
This lackluster response to one of the most important elements of career development is puzzling, especially given the vast amount of research that expounds upon the absolute importance of networking. “We know that if you structure your relationships a certain way, compared to someone who has the same human capital, you will be promoted faster, considered more successful, associated with more innovation, and the list goes on” Carboni explains. “We also know that certain social structures are associated with a longer life, less stress, and less risk of disease,” she elaborates.
Given these facts, Carboni was finally able to discern why people were still so unenthusiastic towards networking: they were viewing it the wrong way. People, and especially students, were approaching networking as if it required a checklist. Make a LinkedIn connection? Check. Talk to x amount of people at the event? Check. Perfect your thirty second intro? Check. Get the job? Maybe. Carboni describes how this faceless mass of names is not your network; your network is the group of people that actually know you. “Your network is the group of people you actually interact with, whether that is through your athletic team or your Greek life. These are the people who know you and understand your capabilities,” Carboni explains. In addition, a network is not designed to only benefit one person. “A good network is mutual. It is empowering for both people,” Carboni explains.
Given this general misunderstanding, Carboni set out to write a book designed for everyone to use at any stage in their professional career. She explains how “I have seen too many books focusing on how to project your personal brand and perfect your elevator pitch, and from the science very little comes out of that. In addition, most of the books on the science of networking are not very accessible, and tend to only really focus on the analytical side of the process.”
While Connect the Dots is certainly rooted in the science behind networking, and Carboni includes a plethora of research examples that she herself has been involved with, the book is designed to be as concise and clear as possible. With chapters such as “Building Bridges” and “Changing Your Lead” located right beside the more intriguing “Circles and Sleepers” and “The Slime Factor”, the book draws on multiple real life examples and applications to make it a pleasant, enjoyable, and incredibly empowering read.
Most importantly, the book stresses the importance of immediate implementation. Carboni explains how she recognizes that the people most interested in networking are probably already incredibly busy with school or their current jobs. She points out how “I hope that someone reading this book would think ‘Ok, this makes sense. I am a busy person and do not want to spend ten hours straight reading this book for its overall message; I want something I can get out of each chapter.’” Because of this sentiment, Carboni strived to make each chapter directly relevant and applicable to daily life, so that readers do not have to wait in order to make a positive change in their professional development. From the first page, they can begin to incorporate insightful data and research into their daily life. They can experience an immediate positive effect on their network of relationships.
Above all, Carboni stresses how "you must stop trying to network, and start trying to build meaningful relationship in your life."