Networking is a talent that, once mastered, will unlock doors and is a key to success in life as well as business.
From the playground to the prom to the boardroom, knowledge and talent will get you so far. If you are not able to make the connections and build those relationships, you are just another wall flower watching as your classmates dance the night away.
“Oh! I’m just shy.” That may sound good, but it won’t put food on the table. Take a deeper look at yourself and ask “why? “
You may avoid networking because you fear rejection, or lack confidence or you may even feel you are unworthy. You may hold the viewpoint that Networking is manipulative or insincere and with the thousands of networks out there I am sure there is a lot of that about.
Keep searching for the right network, the reward is so great you will be glad that you did.
So do we get a wallflower to take that first step? We keep the intimidation factor to a minimum. Start with friends and relatives. Using a known contact will get you over the first hurdle and demystify the networking process.
Next would be classmates and alumni. Your college has an alumni network in place with people that joined the network for just such a reason. It is a wealth of connections and should not feel like a cold call, that is what it is there for.
This is relationship building. You don’t have to apologize for wanting to learn more about someone you would like to network with. It shows lack of confidence, unprofessionalism, it is juvenile and annoying. You are worth someone’s time and one day you may be able to help them out.
To quote business coach and author of Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi, “Humans are hard-wired as communal, tribal animals, so the shy person isn’t shy by nature, they are shy by design. Something happened to them to make them want to recoil.”
To an introvert, sometimes, the clouds part and the sun beams through and the realization sinks in that he is not the shy loner he thought he was.
At this point, he says, tap into the wisdom of Dale Carnegie in Five Bullet points.
- Smile – It makes you approachable
- Ask a question – it is much easier to engage a person that barging in with an opinion.
- Listen – with sincere interest. People love to talk about themselves. Discuss their experiences and opinions
- Business Cards – always have them handy
- Say the person’s name – Doing so makes the other person feel more comfortable, like you really know him and he knows you.
Well not exactly, we want you to be more gregarious than normal, but keep it real. You don’t want to come off as artificial or like someone who is only in it for himself. So if you are a bit awkward, it’s to be expected, but don’t apologize for it.
Get Your Blood Boiling
Attend clubs or events that pique your interest. Book clubs, local charities, sporting events, hobby groups, car or motorcycle clubs, whatever your passion it is easier to be “you” and you will enjoy yourself as well.
If you are a techie or a doctor, it doesn’t mean you only have to attend medical or technology conferences. You could be chatting about each other’s occupation in between discussing the plot of the latest book or which trade is good for your team.
When you take risks you overcome your fear of rejection. It will make networking easier. You will be able to strike up conversations and make cold calls. You may spend a whole season sitting behind someone could be a key networker for you, it all starts with a “hello.”