From the people that I talk to; you would think that networking ranks right up there with the other major fears in life: things like public speaking and death. When I talk to friends about networking it is as if I have offended them. They are so put off by the idea that they appear insulted.
Is That You? Ask Yourself These Questions
- Are you put off by the idea of networking?
- Does the idea of networking paralyze you?
- Are you convinced that you are inept or incapable of networking and therefore you can not or will not network.
- Are you afraid to talk to new people?
- Are you afraid that you will not know what to say or how to start?
- Does it scare you that you may get into a conversation that you do not want?
Here are some of the reasons I believe people become paralyzed when it comes to networking.
- Fear of rejection.
- Desperate to network.
- Failure to follow through.
- Poor networking technique.
- Thinking that networking is only about asking for something.
- Failure to launch.
Fear of Rejection
Many people are adverse to networking simply because they are afraid that when they approach someone to network; they will be turned down.
Many people feel that a synonym for rejection is failure and that is not the case. The reality is that some of the people that you want for connections will turn you down. That, however, is not a failure on your part. We cannot let rejections get us down; because there is always someone else just around the corner to be a connection.
Desperate to network
Many people wait until they need their network before they start building the network and as a result they scare off those with whom they want to network. There is a belief that the only reason people network is to sell themselves or some product. Although much selling occurs, the reality is that networking is the process of getting to know someone and to learn about that person and their business. If through those conversations it is learned that you or a product you have will solve a problem for your new friend let the selling begin. The thing you do not want to do is lead with the sales pitch. Nothing will turn off your prospective networking partner more than that.
Ideally you should be building your network all the time; so you are not and do not have the appearance of being desperate. As you meet people you should be adding them to your network and as you add them lead with the question "What can I do for you?". Networking is first and foremost about giving.
Failure to Follow Through
The failure to follow through is one of the saddest reasons for networking paralysis. Someone provides you with a lead and it just sits there; never acted upon. When you receive a lead you should get on it and make the contact. You should report back to the person that provided the contact and tell them how appreciative you are that they thought of you. You should also keep them apprised of the development of that lead.
Opportunities often come knocking in the form of a lead and we cannot afford to let them wither and die without taking any action. When the reference comes, be prepared and follow through.
Poor Networking Technique
Striking up a conversation with a new networking contact can be a difficult process if you do not know what you are doing. You must have ice breakers that go beyond the traditional "Nice Weather We Are Having". To effectively network you must be able to engage the person in meaningful conversation. Starting with something to the effect of "How do you know the event organizer?" or "What enticed you to come to this event?" Have follow up questions ready to keep the conversation flowing. People like to talk about themselves and they will if you give them the chance.
Thinking That Networking Is Only About Asking for Something
Maybe being asked for something is your past experience or you are so focused on your situation that all you can do is ask is the problem. The reality is that networking is much more than asking for something. It is more about asking what you can do for the other person. How can you help? What do they need? Networking is a two way process and effective networkers realize that. They are out there looking for opportunities to teach and share. They realize that at a time in the future this willingness to give of themselves will come back in rich rewards.
You cannot go into networking simply looking and expecting to receive. It just does not work that way and your initial success will be washed away.
Failure To Launch
Many networking careers never see the light of day because of this fear. This is the networker that is always looking for that one last piece of the puzzle. That last little cog in the wheel. There will always be opportunity to improve on your networking capabilities, but the reality is that until you get out there and try you will never know what it is that you must work on. The failure to launch costs millions of lucrative careers and business opportunities every year. When you get the good idea; you must go with it and start the process moving. There will always be time for refining and perfecting.
The Need To Build Your Network
Expanding your network adds value to both you, the individual, and the rest of your network. Each new connection is an expansion in your sphere of influence and their sphere of influence, it is also an expansion in the sphere of influence for your connections. Your network has tremendous value to the others in your network and that value increases with each new connection.
I talk to successful business people and ask about what led to their success and what role networking played in the process and the answers literally stun me. They will tell me that they are not a networker and that they never have been. Then I will hear the story about how they came to be in their current position and guess what? Even though they were not a networker and even though they were not seeking the role than occupy; someone found them!
Whether they were actively networking or not; their networks are working on their behalf. Why is that? How could a network be working on behalf of someone that has not announced their active interest in looking for a new opportunity?
I am an advocate for networking and I can talk at length about the importance of networking and what networks can do for you and your career. I was not always like that. Making new friends and reaching out to strangers was difficult for me and at times it is still difficult. I can say that I am getting better and each time it becomes a little easier. For some networking comes naturally and for others it is right up there with speaking in front of a large group and death.