Networking. Yes, I have said that dreadful word.
Remember rolodexes? The desktop card indexes that recorded names, telephone numbers, and addresses. The days of tracking your connections to rolodexes may be lost however the strength of building our networking connections through in person, face-to-face encounters have not.
Many people have a disdain for the idea of networking. Let’s challenge that notion.
Networking is truly a powerful tool. Networking can become one of your true allies that is part of your personal and professional development strategy.
Networking, in its simplest form, is about creating and sustaining relationships. That’s it. It is relational and frankly, if you think about it more broadly, isn’t everything you do about building, nurturing and sustaining vital relationships?
Creating and building new relationships are key. However, sustaining those valued relationships that have already been established are just as important. Many of my coaching clients have turned to those “old” managers and mentors from their past lives. When they have kept up on those relations, it has assisted them in creating new connections for future opportunities.
A former client recently shared with me that she spent time reflecting on where she worked before where she felt most valued and respected. Where she felt her voice mattered. It was in a hospital setting and she decided to take the risk and reach out to the COO there. Although this felt like a stretch, she remembered that the COO had said he hoped they worked together again. So... with some gumption and grit, she reached out to him. He responded very quickly, and they connected later that week. He told her that he loved to bring back employees who have added value before and find a place for them.
In a broader sense, it you think about all the domains in your life; work/career, family, friends, and community, our relationships form the basis for the quality of those areas. Therefore, having a networking mentality has wonderful benefits. If you network, you will:
· Increase your opportunities,
· increase your shared knowledge,
· increase your connections and
· increase your visibility; allowing you to be at the table.
Of course, the losses are just the opposite. If you don’t network, you will:
· miss opportunities,
· miss shared knowledge,
· miss vital connections, and
· lose your spot at the table; becoming invisible.
The benefits of networking clearly outweigh any drawbacks. However, doing it can create a lot of angst and anxiety for some.
Networking may not make your top ten list of the most joyful things to do. It may push you out of your comfort zone and straight into a panic zone. Just curious—why is that? Well it may have to do with the fact that as many as 50% of us are introverts.
If you are in fact an introvert, it does not mean that you are anti-social. It also does not mean that you are anti-constant conversation.
Introverts get drained just being around a high stimulation environment, like a networking event. So, you can redefine what a networking event “looks like”. It may be a 1:1 conversation with someone or a small group get together.
Networking does not need to occur in a loud, crowded venue with dozens or even hundreds of people.
Introverts tend to be better listeners and listening is key to building relationships. Listen for what someone is looking for and the things that are important to them. Find ways to help people; be of service.
In relationships, there is a rotation of giving and receiving. If all you do and focus on is “to take” from your relationships, they will eventually lose their potency. But those individuals, the people who give, and give without the pretense of getting, will reap the benefits organically.
The dynamic shifts when you see networking as an opportunity to explore what you can do to help others. Begin with a giving mindset and an attitude of walking in with the intention of finding ways of furnishing others with your gifts and talents.
Who knows, you might find that you get far more out of it than ever expected.
Networking expands your tentacles and the connections that could assist you on your journey.
Let’s be real, you may not find a love for networking. Rather, you may find it more tolerable, with quality outcomes over time. You may possibly find that it can even be a tad bit of fun. Okay, maybe now I am pushing it, but nonetheless, networking may be the catalyst for new favorable ventures.