Building soft skills and deep personal relationships is a mystery to most of us. And what we don’t understand, we’re skeptical of.
That’s why we’re almost all skeptical of “networking” and “building relationships.” We all hear phrases like “The majority of jobs are found through personal contacts.” But how does that actually work? How do you go from knowing your friends to turning that into jobs?
We don’t understand how this works, so we create false dichotomies like…
- “Whatever, networking is for douches”
- “I’m not good at selling myself”
- “I’d rather get a job based on WHAT I know instead of WHO I know”
The 5 Barriers to Becoming a Master Connector
I learned the critical importance of networking, and discovered my natural aversion to it, early in my career. I was a new college graduate working in the strategic planning division of a $10 billion company, and our business unit had been invited to a retirement party for one of the top executives. The gentleman retiring was someone I’d looked up to during my brief tenure, and I wanted him to know he’d made an impact on me.
While I wanted to attend the party, as an introvert I usually avoided these types of events because they made me uncomfortable. Knowing there would be a lot of senior executives at this party made me even more fearful. In the end, I tamped down my fears and went. When I arrived I found a relatively empty room save for the executive’s friends and close colleagues. That night, because of the small turnout, I had the pleasure and advantage of engaging in one-on-one conversations with some of the company’s top executives, an experience that would prove crucially important in advancing my career.
That evening I learned the importance of networking and realized I had to figure out how to engage in business events in ways that were comfortable for me. I went on to discover an array of strategies introverts can use, ultimately writing “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership”.
Executive recruiters share words of wisdom about networking, finding a job, interviewing, improving your résumé, and climbing the corporate ladder
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If you feel like you’re not getting your time or your money’s worth, it could be because you’re not leveraging the opportunity well enough. And the good news is it might not be all that hard to improve your ROI.
The first thing you’ll want to do is check if you’re guilty of the five most common mistakes people make introducing themselves while at networking and social events. After all your answer to the age old question – “what do you do?” – can either create an opportunity to stand out, attract attention, and get referrals or be a boring snooze and lost opportunity.
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We have all heard of Multi-Level Marketing. Unfortunately many people approach networking in the same fashion and they think that the networks other people have built belong to them for their marketing purposes. Just because I am on Linkedin doesn’t mean I have been recruited to sell other people’s products or services.
Virtually every working person has at least one of these wretched networking stories to share. Here are six more of mine from the vault. As a career and workplace commentator and speaker, I get more than my share of networking overtures. The vast majority of my networking interactions are fun and lively. Every now and then, though, a clueless networker hits me up with an off-the-wall request or, even worse, ropes me into a lunch or coffee for the hall of shame, like the ones described below.
Networking as we know it first took shape 15 or 20 years ago, when entrepreneurs and consultants started meeting up with people for the sole purpose of cultivating business relationships. It makes sense that self-employed folks would jump into the networking mosh pit ahead of corporate types, who didn’t need big or robust networks to prosper in their careers. Today all job categories have grown less secure than ever, and virtually everybody—from college students to Greatest Generation business emeriti—makes time for networking coffee dates and LinkedIn (LNKD), Facebook, and the whole social networking gang. And nearly everyone has run into an unfortunate networking scenario at one time or another.