How to feel better about networking!
Networking is an important part of working life. It can be a crucial factor in everything from new clients, new employees, careers, keeping up to date with industry standards, and getting the right information. But we are not really taught how to network well – it is often assumed if you stick a bunch of people in a room, we will all know what to do. Networking is the art of building and maintaining connections for shared positive outcomes. Many people, however, feel they are not good at networking. I propose we change our outlook on the process of networking to make it less daunting.
What I want to share with you is that networking is more than just turning up to an event, handing out a business card, and working the room. Networking is about building your fellowship. What is fellowship?
Fellowship is about building a friendship of connections over a common interest – building points of connectivity with others is a critical component of successful networking. Discovering links to commonality with others sharpens our receptivity to maintaining connections.
The definition of a fellowship is a friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests. When you go into a situation, it makes it a lot simpler if you feel you are going to meet a friend, or chat to some possible friends about what you are interested in – sounds simple right?
The more authentic you are in forming these relationships, the more resilient and valuable the networks will be that you create. This will give you a greater return on investment of your time and we all know that time is valuable!
So, the first thing to learn about networking is that you are already connected – so that is grand. You need to tell yourself this – because it will help relieve the nervousness of networking. Have a look around and see who is already in your network. Brainstorm a list of people in your world, beginning with your family, friends, and colleagues. Remember, they might not do exactly what you are looking for, but they might know someone that does, and you can create a ripple effect.
You will be surprised by how close you probably are to great resources. Most people have 80-100 immediate contacts but we don’t realise. Try to list 6-10 people in each of the following categories:
- Personal – significant others, family, friends, neighbours, religious groups, services (accountant, lawyers, doctor, hairdresser), sports, gym
- Education – people from school, teachers, people from the University past and present if you are doing an ongoing study
- Professional – colleagues, supervisors, customers, professional associations, trade show contacts
- Community – interest groups, hobbies, volunteer groups, charities, government representatives
- Electronic – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
Once you have a list of contacts, it is important that you strategise your next steps. When you start to plan the next steps, try to re-word the term networking in your head. If we reframe our views on networking and enter our own mission of creating fellowships with people, suddenly the perception is not as daunting and our response is, therefore, more engaging in the whole process. See networking as a fellowship – a way of forming friendly associations with people who share similar interests.