Secrets From A Once – Reluctant Networker: 5 Tips For Finding Your Networking Groove

(By  Linda Descano)

Networking is more than just being a description of an activity; it’s about being open to the opportunity that lies all around you. If you walk into a room with a positive attitude and confidence – even if you are an introvert, you almost always will prove yourself right.

I’m frequently complimented on my “well-developed networking muscle,” which always makes me smile. Truth be told, I didn’t start seriously networking until I was in my 30s and I was a “reluctant” networker until well into my 40s.  I still well remember the days I would “sweat” just thinking about going to a networking event and then “hug the wall” once I arrived. As much as I knew just how important it was to network, I would frequently use my to-do list as an excuse for a last-minute no show. Really, though, I found the whole exercise of networking intimidating and scary.

My networking transformation didn’t happen overnight nor by accident, but by observing and seeking the advice of networkers I admired – and, of course, putting those observations and advice into practice.  Here are five tips I would offer for finding your networking groove, which I distilled from my own experience and that of once-reluctant networkers:

1. Adopt a networking state of mind.
Networking is more than just being a description of an activity; it’s about being open to the opportunity that lies all around you. If you walk into a room with a positive attitude and confidence – even if you are an introvert like me – you almost always will prove yourself right.

2. Not all networking is created equal.
Focus on opportunities to cultivate relationships with people of quality, not just on the quantity of people in your network. One note of caution: don’t confuse quality with someone having a particular title or level. Along these same lines, have a game plan before you walk into a room: know whom you want to meet.

3. “True” networking is about giving not taking.
Don’t think of what someone can do for you – focus on how you might leverage your insights, experience, and connections to help someone achieve his or hers.

4. Networking requires nuance.
Segment your network into sub-networks, perhaps organizing connections around a particular area of professional expertise (e.g., social media) or personal interest (e.g., Native American pottery). This will help inform your investment strategy (see #5 below) as well as enable you to more efficiently and effectively activate your network to help you or one of your connections navigate a particular opportunity or issue.

5. A network requires ongoing investment to thrive.
Follow through with referrals. Have a strategy for keeping in touch with the people in your network. For example, while I frequently share articles to my entire LinkedIn network, I also practice targeting sharing, e.g., circulating an article on sustainable development with my connections who share this interest. Of course, today, professional networks like LinkedIn make it easier to keep in touch, but don’t ignore the power of a personal handwritten note, a phone call and/or a face-to-face meeting. After all, what’s the point of making the effort to cultivate a relationship if you let it die on the vine? (Ok, I’ll fess up: I’m enjoying a glass of red wine as I write this.)

What type of networker are you? And, how do you make time for networking?

(Source: Women & co)

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