‘Networking’ is almost a ‘rude word’ in Australia. For many people, it conjures up schmoozing, boozing and using. For others, seems like too much hard work. And for many, even the thought of chatting to a stranger about business is too daunting to contemplate.
Before we look at how to network and the benefits of a successful business network, let’s explode some of the myths of networking:
1. Networking is about using people.
Wrong. Networking is not about manipulating and taking advantage of contacts. It’s about relationships and linkages. Good networkers are always asking themselves “how can I be of service to this person.”
2. The only people who network are the ones who need the business.
Wrong again. Successful networks are built over a long period of time, not with the desperation of someone who needs the business tomorrow to stay afloat. Building a viable network is an ongoing process, not a one-time event.
3. If you know a lot of people, you have a strong network.
The power of people is much more about quality then quantity.
4. Networking is schmoozing and collecting cards.
Whilst you may give out business cards, successful networkers build relationships based on genuine, sincere exchanges.
5. Effective networkers are all extroverts.
Connections and relationships are developed through learned skills and intentional management. Networkers are made, not born.
6. It takes too much time.
Not necessarily. Your network already consists of your friends, and family, sporting associates, social contacts and business associates – in other words, people you already interact with.
7. I built my network. Now it’s there when I need it.
Relationships require care and nurturing. Without continual maintenance, networks wither and die.
8. It’s embarrassing to ask for help.
Most people enjoy being of service, especially when they see potential for reciprocity in the future.
9. When your work speaks for itself, connections are not important.
How many people know your work? With friends helping, you can cast the net further and more effectively.
10. It’s impossible to meet the right people.
Through the internet and various organisations, and with a little careful research, it’s amazing the people you can meet.
The primary reasons people hate networking (and meeting strangers) are fear of:
- Making a fool of themselves;
- Not knowing what to say;
- Not being interesting;
- Not knowing how to finish and move on; and
Feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed meeting ‘strangers’.
Fear is often the biggest factor stopping us from achieving our potential. In most cases, you need to remind yourself of what FEAR stands for:
False Evidence Appearing Real