Subtitle: How Not To Hate Networking. (Are some people simply “naturals” at networking, and the rest should give up and go home? Not hardly.)

“Relationships are the key to success.” “It’s not about what you know, but who you know.” (Add in here all the quotes you’ve heard about how important relationships are to success.) So, are some people simply “naturals” at networking, and the rest should give up and go home? Not hardly. Networking is a skill that can be developed and done well. Networking is critical to your success, actually. You don’t have to be a “people-person” to be successful at it either. You do have to hustle, though, which means you have to care enough to want the success. Do you want it?

Changing Landscape of Networking

Opportunities come from relationships with people. So cultivate your network. Simple right? Well, there’s more to than, “just do it”. Relationships today look very different from 10 years ago. Technology has shifted our social network capacity. How many people do you know? How many people have connected with you (in any form) in the last week? People are more connected than ever, and they have increasing potential to be more so continually.

Power of Peers

“You become who you spend the most time with.” Be purposeful in how you spend your time, and who you spend it with. Step back and take a look. Do the people who surround you represent who you want to become? Do they represent your long-term vision? Who do you admire? Who do you want to spend more time with? When you have these visions clear, plan time to spend with these people, and make it consistent and regular. “Have lunch, go for cocktails, make a phone date, or connect via FaceTime,” recommends Camille Preston, CEO of AIM Leadership. Re-Think who is in your network. Most people don’t follow this process through. Will you?

More Than Just Numbers

“Effective networking — which means establishing genuine relationships — is about sharing opportunities and information, not just getting ahead,” explains Preston. “It’s easy to connect in the digital age, but real relationships require effort and commitment. We need to be sure that our connections are meaningful and purposeful.”

Individually and in Groups

One-on-one relationships are vital, but so is group participation. You need all sets of skills, interpersonal, small groups, and large groups. There is massive growth in intentional communities. What groups are you a part of? Why?

Diversify

You will benefit by building as broad and diverse a network as possible. “Diversity is the key to a robust network,” adds Preston. “One of my favorite friends is 40 years my senior, and I include her in most of my gatherings. She is bright, curious, well read, and a great conversationalist. She always brings a unique perspective,” Preston explains. Take regular inventories on the diversity of your network. Consider different industries, life stages, genders, races, interests, beliefs, backgrounds. Find people who inspire, challenge interest you, and “those who make you feel fabulous”.

Consistently Be Both

“You must be both interested in and interesting to your peers.” Continually set yourself up for absorbing new and relative content. Plan, prepare, read, watch, write and talk about it. Spend time weekly reaching out to and adding value to, let’s say, 20% of these people every week. “Create a tickle or tracking system to give regularly,” advises Preston.

But How

As you go, ask yourself these questions: What is wanted? What is needed? How can I serve? What can I give? How can I show support? Great things to do are: Share resources. Offer introductions. Help (without being heavy-handed). Remember that the little things matter. Most people are glad just to know you are thinking about them.

Give Before You Get

Even better, give without expecting to get. You will free up so much wasted time and effort by applying this principle properly to life. Constantly making sure you are “even” with someone can be exhausting and a real downer. We aren’t talking about you giving up your livelihood or working for free – that would be devaluing yourself, and that helps no one. We are talking about the little things like leaving something better than you found it. Like contributing in meaningful ways.

Have To vs. Get To

Change to process if you are feeling overwhelmed. Here’s a good example from Preston: “One client, a COO of a fast growing start-up, set the goal to connect with one friend every other week. After teasing her about how “lofty” this goal was, we reframed her concept of a connection from a two-plus hour commitment to a potential 20-second text message. Within one hour, she had made three touches that shifted her from feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and isolated to feeling excited, engaged, and like a good friend.”

Abundance Mentality

The best relationships are ones where you give and feel filled at the same time. Networking efforts – done right – creates goodwill on both sides. It can be re-energizing. As an economist might say, the best exchanges are when both parties are better after the trade, regardless of the type of payment. Remember the old saying that the more you give, the more you get? Yep. It’s not about you, and because it isn’t, you are better of for it. Now that’s good networking.

Image and Content Source: http://fortune.com/2015/06/09/how-not-to-hate-networking-in-the-age-of-facebook/

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