Some of us are not movie stars or fish to water when it comes to connecting with others to enhance our careers. There is no question that networking has its benefits and is a key factor in career mobility and upward movement, i.e. promotions. However, if one is not a people-person in the first place, networking can be extremely challenging. Interestingly, the skill of networking does not require a person to suddenly change into a politician and run for office on the popularity vote, a common fear. Here are some key tips to remember that can boost your networking ability instead of floundering around blindly and awkwardly:
- Understanding principles from network theory, most relationships with new people happen through people we know. That means our known circle of friends and family are the most likely to introduce us to new people we’ve never met before.
- The high majority of relationships and long-lasting bonds occur through a close friend as the catalyst or “match-maker” versus blind meeting of a person based on compatible attributes as often advertised by dating websites.
- Networking relationships are often value-based. In other words, they begin and solidify on an exchange of benefits between two people and continue because of the same. So if you have something somebody wants leverage it to your advantage.
- Networking opportunities become exponentially large as soon as a person gets out of their existing, known group of contacts. By connecting with one person outside of a known circle of friends one suddenly gains the potential opportunity to reach ten times as much. However, that new contact needs to be someone who is in the hub of a new group, not the periphery.
- Connecting with people who are already popular shares the same factor to some extent with you, i.e. you become popular by association. Unfortunately, this axiom from high school rings very true in the adult world as well.
- Networking should be targeted. You should have a general idea what a given group of people will provide for you as an advantage before trying to connect. This is a common approach used in business marketing to conserve energy and resources and avoid a lot of wasted time on dead ends.
- Practice makes perfect. If your first networking attempt didn’t produce immediate, awesome results, try again. First, not all network connections prosper right away but they can be stored for future reference and cultivated for a need down the road. Second, by practicing talking to people and connecting regularly, one develops better talking skills, approach and most importantly, personal confidence. And those who show confidence oftentimes are accepted far faster into new groups.
Networking isn’t a Mt. Everest, an impossible challenge. It can be mastered in small, tactical steps. Just focus on what you’re after and then develop new bridges through known friends and contacts to get started.