This blog is a revised and updated version of a previously published blog.
Meeting people can be exhausting. Remembering new names, details of the conversation, looking for ways to connect, can all be overwhelming, and lead us to hide. Networking, being social, is a learned skill, it is not a natural trait. But networking, being social and approachable, are necessary for every budding and established leader. Sadly, this life is still based on who you know, and who knows you.
People could be defined as pack animals. We typically live a social life, meaning we live with a family. We operate in packs, we communicate, we are not a lone wolf taking down a deer by ourselves. We as people crave interaction, emotional bonds and the safety of having a pack to protect us. We long to belong to a group, but we want to belong to our group, not a group that is new.
Understanding our nature helps us to change and grow. Growth is a good thing. Networking leads to growth. Belonging to a group of peers is not always comfortable. Peers do not have to love us like our parents or be kind to us as friends and family, rather, peers can be cold, hard and truthful. They can expose who we really are and our faults. Belonging to a group of peers can feel like standing in front of a mirror which exposes every fault. But, it does not have to feel this way.
Networking is a skill. It is challenging and sometimes frightening, but so worth it. I slowly began practicing networking by striking up conversations with strangers in stores. It was hard at first, but I learned to enjoy it. I found some of the best conversations I had were with complete strangers while I waited in line at Walmart. I also discovered Dale Carnegie. Mr. Carnegie was and still is a leading expert on how to network and communicate. Mr. Carnegie wrote the book How to Win Friends and Influence People as a guide to networking. The golden nuggets tucked away in this book, hold true 82 years later. The secret, talk to people about themselves. Ask questions designed to show interest and learn about a person. Look for things you have in common and then talk about those things. These skills will make you an expert at Networking, and will eventually lead to people introducing you.
Networking is a very necessary skill in today’s world. Business deals and partnerships are made between people who know each other. When looking for a partner for a project, I always start with people I know. It is more comfortable and easier to work with people who you can predict or feel comfortable with. Networking leads to having a large pool of people to call on. Some of the best jobs and opportunities I have ever been offered came from networking, not my skills.
With any new skill, start small, set realistic goals. If you are a novice, make it your goal to approach one new person at an upcoming event and to have a meaningful conversation with them. Slowly increase your goal. As you become more practiced, look for opportunities to network, and if you are brave, create the opportunities.