A stream of consciousness calculation that came up the other day when contemplating an invitation to attend a networking event downtown.
Play along if you'd like. Your calculations will probably differ.
If the event runs 6-9pm that's 3 hours - Add to that an hour or so for before and after travel and the transition time to adjust from whatever I was doing before to whatever I'll do afterwards - That brings my time cost to 5 hours - If I were paying someone minimum wage to go in my place that would cost me about $50 - but since I'm going myself there will be wear and tear on car and wardrobe (since I'd probably dress nicer than usual) - and since the event is downtown there will be parking to deal with - so I'll add in another $10-15 for that - It'll be meal time so I'll need to grab a bite somewhere and since I won't want to stand around empty handed I'll also probably be buying a drink or two, easily another $20-30 - what am I up to now? $80-95 - Oh, and then there's the ticket cost, say $10-15. This has quickly added up to an $100 investment on my part. (And were I to value my time at more than $10 and hour, and I do, the cost is even greater.)
But you ask, what about the opportunity cost? What else could I get done with that 5 hours? In my case that's a nice chunk of reading, writing, or another meeting. (Or maybe a nice long nap.) Whatever the alternative I should calculate it into the cost of going to this event.
Now let's check the benefit side of the equation:
What's the value of a professional contact (that may or may not be converted into a genuine connection) with one or more of the randomly presented people that I happen to bump into at this event? Hard to say. For the most part I've only met job seekers, muti-level marketers, and HR personnel at these kinds of events. Given that, how likely am I to capitalize on a shallow and fleeting connection with an HR person or one of the later wonderful people? So far the record has been a bit weak. So while "anything is possible" the reality is "not very likely".
In many ways this event is kinda like buying lottery tickets as retirement investing. Certain costs combined with likely low payouts.
But maybe I can fix that.
Improving the benefit:
To improve the benefit side of this equation I can research the attendees and identify in advance which ones I want to talk with. I can send them a message and indicate I'm going to the event specifically to discuss something with them of mutual benefit. I can target events with a higher density of attendees from my field or of attendees that match a particular profile I'm looking to meet.
And I can of course use the event as an opportunity for something other than uncovering opportunities such as practicing telling my story, improving my general social skills, or if I'm feeling cooped up: getting me out of the house.
If I contacted a mentor, colleague, or prospect directly (Say on Linkedin or through a contact) and offered to take that person to lunch (or dinner) to ask them about their career development end employment experience. And If I truly listened to their advice. Would I have a higher probably of developing a deeper connection with this individual? And could I do this at a lower cost than the previously mentioned networking opportunity? And could this give me practice telling my story, being sociable, making friends, and getting me out of the house? And could this deeper contact translate into more value for them as well as for myself than the networking event? I kinda think so. In fact I would be surprised if it didn't.