So many of us avoid networking because we see it is as exactly that – hard work. We’ve put the work back into networking and made it all too difficult and exhausting.
Countless articles and books have been written about the importance of networking (yeah, yeah, yeah I hear you say!) In his book Highly Effective Networking, Orville Pearson writes, ‘When the economy is good networking is important. In tough times or tough job markets, networking is essential.’
The beauty of networking, as Never Eat Alone author Keith Ferrazzi puts it, is that ‘by giving your time and expertise and sharing them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone’.
The problem is that most of us would rather be doing something else.
The events we choose to attend have little relevance or value for us and we leave said events wishing we'd done something more fun instead. For most of us, when we do network, we network within the narrow orbit of our immediate circle, tapping into like-minded circles of sympathetic people. This is fine as far as it goes, but it has limitations over time. By minimizing difference of opinion and experience, it breeds laziness, stifles growth and limits potential.
When it comes to networking we are feeling:
Where do we begin? With all the online and offline options available to us, many of us feel overwhelmed by choice, with no idea where to start when it comes to building a network. Face-to-face engagement puts pressure on us to be constantly interesting and engaging; computers remove much of that pressure, so it’s no wonder people opt to hide behind their smartphones and their like buttons. But how do we talk about ourselves or ask for help? And why would anyone care?
Which tools and applications should I use? Which social media networks should I be on — and should I join all, one or just some of them? How do I manage them? Given time constraints, how do I keep in touch with an ever-growing network? Which face-to-face events should I attend? How often do I need to ‘network’?
These are just some of the many questions you face when it comes to the Rubik’s cube of networking sites, events and groups.
Add to this the pressures of multi-tasking, having to think on your feet, constantly switching focus, jumping from one group of people to the next while trying to remember what actions you should take… Are you confused yet?
We struggle with prioritising the tasks on our to-do list, let alone deciding on who to call or get a cuppa with, or which networking event to attend. The follow-up conversations are often rushed and superficial, falling back on small-talk and an obsessive fixation on the weather (or that could be the English in me). Words and messages are communicated through acronyms — LOL, FYI and OMG and the like, with more arcane expressions such as IRL, TBH and DFTBA (don't forget to be awesome) on the rise.
Every day we are pulled and stretched in hundreds of directions, challenged to be truly ‘present’ while maximising productivity despite the growing demands on our time and energy. Most of us report feeling drained, exhausted and overstretched much of the time. Throw networking into the mix, and many of us will say, ‘I know I should, but I’ll do it another day.’
When it comes to networking, we are quite simply over it. We know we should network because everyone around us is telling us so, but where is the real evidence of the return? Why should I network? Is it really necessary? Most of us these days would rather be doing something else
So why on earth bother?
It’s simple really.
You cannot get anywhere in life on your own.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, names Larry Summers, from the US Treasury Department and the World Bank, as her first and most important mentor. Fashion designer Yves St Laurent declares that Christian Dior ‘taught me the basis of my art … I never forgot the years I spent at his side’. Facebook gladiator Mark Zuckerberg learned about business and management practices from regular meetings with Apple founder Steve Jobs. Philanthropist and businessman Michael Bloomberg learned teamwork and ethics from William R. Saloman, managing partner of an investment bank where Bloomberg first worked.
A strong, connected and mutually beneficial network provides you with a series of stepping-stones to success. The intentional support of another, with whom you collaborate and share what you know and who you know, pushes you forward in life.
The active and mutual support of others helps to:
It is imperative today to join forces with others, utilise your collective skills and experience, add new connections and insights, and communicate the support you need to step into your future.
So c'mon push past the pain, take control and revel in the opportunity that exists for all of us when the pie gets bigger.