For so many people, the concept of networking is a craft which fills them with dread. Understandably many have dread of walking into a room of strangers or in meeting new people. It maybe understandable but it is a craft that holds so much value. The top netwokers build their own communities, their own friendship groups which are broad and the result is that will always have new opportunities presented to them.
This is where one of the great myths come alive. Networking makes people immediately think of those who work a room to find opportunity. That is sales, not networking. Networking is about the above, building new friendships, contacts and a personal community; that requires far more genuine, authentic behaviours than the person trying to be clever as they work their way around a room for their own gain.
If one views networking in the light of building friendships, then the picture naturally changes. The strong networkers will stop and talk to the person providing their coffee in the morning at the store, to the person next to them on the train station, to the host of an event to the doorman to the most senior figures in a room and they gain from each contact as they will listen and learn something from each. This can be invaluable and is at the heart of a growth mind-set which can determine successful careers.
The argument is that networking is intimidating as it asks a person to go outside their comfort zone but again this is the wrong way to view the picture. It is about learning. One very successful CEO would refuse to spend time with his work colleagues post work as he felt there was little he would learn from them. Instead he would make sure that he would dine and spend time with clients, their families and friendship groups as he would learn from the new people that he met. He would make sure he went to many cultural events as again he felt one could always learn from the arts, even if it was just developing knowledge.
He noted that so often many people were narrow in their thinking and understandings; they would, he noted, often struggle to make intelligent conversations when the subject matters went beyond the immediate scope of work. He strongly believed that his own success came as a result of his ability to socially interact with all people and be able to hold conversations beyond work. He would argue that this built not just friendship but trust which gave him an “asset” which few others possesses as they simply did not invest the time or effort.
There is also the story of a CEO who when he would interview people, he would invite them either to lunch in a top restaurant or to an event as he wanted to see how they would interact with others. Would the person say thank you to the waiter or waitress? How do they carry themselves and how genuine were they with strangers? Their view was that if a person can not say thank you to a person serving them then they were not right for employment in the company.
The world is changing so fast today that it is estimated that all need to reinvent themselves 3x in their career. The one thing which allows a person to successfully reinvent themselves is knowledge and community. One can make a very strong argument that a personal community, a personal friendship group, will always provide opportunity and therefore, in turn security. However, one needs to invest the effort and time into others.
Networking may be a craft, a skill set but arguably one of the most important ones to possess in ane ever changing world. Not only does it provide friendships and knowledge, it creates a more fun way to live as each contact, from the coffee shop to the doorman to the Chairman will bring something extra to the journey
So why do so many dislike networking?