Whether you’re still in school just starting your job-hunt or have been out in the working world for years, it is virtually inevitable that you’ve encountered firsthand the power of professional networking.
Maybe you heard about about a job that was filled before the news of an opening even hit the street? Maybe your friend told you about a consulting gig they scored because someone made a recommendation? Or maybe you yourself “got a lucky break” and got an introduction to a major potential client through a friend of a friend of a friend?
If so, why does the idea of getting out and building the professional network of your dreams leave you quaking in your boots? (And if you are starting to build your professional network, here’s my cheat sheet on the “5 Rookie Networking Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)”).
Let me guess:
- You feel like there’s no reason for anyone to talk to you.
- You’re terrific in a one-on-one conversation, but the idea of walking into a room full of strangers is terrifying.
- You know you need a professional network to get ahead, but are incredibly busy and are afraid the whole networking thing will turn into a crazy time suck.
- You love the idea of building a professional network, but have no idea how to get started.
Busy folks (like you and me) don’t have time to waste on activities that aren’t helping them move upward and onward. If you’ve ever landed in a mob of people desperately handing out business cards at an event, you already know that there are there are PLENTY of ways that networking can be done oh-so-wrong and waste EVERYONE’s precious time.
In my experience there are four major myths behind unproductive (i.e. BAD) networking.
I’m going to debunk those myths for you, and show you how to replace then with truly effective practices that will not only reward all your hard work but get you excited about building a professional network of outstanding people you LIKE.
Myth #1: Effective Networking Just Happens (and Isn’t a Fully-Planned Strategy)
What most people think of as “networking” is really just a small fraction of what building a strong professional network really entails.
Most view networking as just the “meet-and-greet,” exchanging of cards. In fact the initial meeting is just the tip of the iceberg and no more than 15% of an entire, well-integrated networking strategy.
An truly effective networking strategy involves 5 Key Elements: (Planning, Outreach, Follow-up, Nurture, and Ask) all of which need to executed in order to grow productive network.
In short, networking isn’t a single tactic, but an entire process with many moving parts, specific timelines, and decisions that need to be implemented in order to be effective.
My networking system is so much more than a deck of business cards to be handed out at events once a month.
Specifically, my network building system includes strategic planning and outreach, follow-up and engagement, a social media strategy, technology, and so much more.
When it all comes together, you are building an invaluable asset that acts as a backbone of your career. A good network is a source of information, mentorship, partnership and support which give you the resources to grow whatever you are doing to the next level. (If you’re dipping your toes in the networking waters, check out my handy cheat sheet to help you get started!)
Myth #2: Networking Takes a TON of Time and Money
I’m not going to lie. Good networking does take SOME time. There’s no waving a magic wand and suddenly having a fully-formed professional network appear, ready to help with your every professional need.
But that doesn’t mean that effective networking can’t be relatively easy to work into your schedule if it’s strategic and planned.
From mapping out the the most effective and efficient outreach to knowing exactly which emails to send when following-up to nurture your best connections, a step-by-step blueprint can make your personal networking strategy both effective and efficient for even the most time-crunched professionals and entrepreneurs.
Yes, executing a real networking strategy does take some effort… but you’ve already proven that you’re willing to put in effort. Believe me, every bit of time and energy you put into your networking will come back to you tenfold!
What you CAN’T afford to do is waste time and energy in haphazard “networking” that doesn’t lead anywhere … or worse yet, perpetual procrastination.
Myth #3: I Just Don’t Have the Personality for Networking
I have to admit it. I used to subscribe to this one. As a total introvert, I looked around at my friends and colleagues who were master networkers, and thought, “I’m not anything like them! I’m never going to be good at this networking thing. Why should I even try?”
A lot of the advice for how to become a good networker at that time involved trying to turn natural introverts (like me!) into extroverts. I tried to follow that advice, but trying to fake being an extrovert really wasn’t a winning strategy. All it got me was a lot of frustration (I still wasn’t an extrovert) and exhaustion (from trying to fake being something I wasn’t), and I still wasn’t building my networking tribe.
Well, many, many years in, I’m still an introvert and my personality is still nothing like my more naturally-extroverted friends’.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I’ve come to learn that good networking has very, very little to do with whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert or something in-between.
What does matter is making connections, and then nurturing them into long-term resources. It’s a completely learnable skill, and ANYONE can learn it and get good at it.
With a solid blueprint for your networking strategy (and with a good list of things NOT to do!), anyone can become a master at the networking game, my friend.
And a game it is! Once you get the hang of your networking, networking isn’t just easy… it’s actually a lot of fun!
Myth #4: I’m Overwhelmed By the Whole Idea of Networking and Just Don’t Know Where to Start
Take a deep breath and know that by reading this post RIGHT NOW, you’ve already started, and that is more than half the battle. Just understanding that networking is important and that you can take actionable steps towards getting better at it are more than most people will EVER do.
Just by taking those steps, you have already started positioning yourself to claim a stake in a bigger, brighter professional future!
Now, it’s up to you to grab the juicy opportunities that are out there and available!
Keep reading . . . now that you know the 4 networking myths, I’ve created a free “cheat sheet” on “The 5 Rookie Networking Mistakes (and How You Can Avoid Them)” to help you with your first (or next!) networking event . . .
My wish for you is to sidestep the countless traps that can make for unproductive networking (Or worse… epic networking disasters), and instead learn how to build a strong professional network in a way that’s easy, efficient,and fun!
I’ve done a lot of things right in building my network, and certainly made my share of unproductive, wrong turns. You don’t need to do the same!
To help you on your way, I’ve put together a cheat sheet of some of my 5 of my biggest early networking stumbles and start your networking like an experienced pro!