NETWORKING: WHAT IS IT. WHY DO IT.
AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOW.
In this article, we are going to explore one realm of social interaction called NETWORKING. Here’s what I will cover:
- Networking Fears
- What is Networking (And Who Needs It)
- How Not To Network
- Networking Etiquette
Does the big bad wolf scare you? Does the thought of promoting yourself, your business or talking with others bring resentment? Does it scare you to death because you believe that you need a suave sales pitch? What is it that makes you uncomfortable to network?
Before we answer that question, let’s explore what networking is.
WHAT IS NETWORKING & WHO NEEDS IT
In my opinion, networking is acting and interacting with integrity. It is a culture of respect and the mutual understanding of wanting to help others and asking for help. We do this through two things that are attached to our reputation:
- This involves building relationships by making a connection through conversation and genuinely building rapport.
- We exchange information and ideas.
TWO NETWORKING MYTHS
For most people, two stereotypical thoughts come to mind:
THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MOST PEOPLE’S MINDS ARE THAT BUSINESS PEOPLE AND JOB HUNTERS ARE IN NEED OF NETWORKING.
False. We all need to network. Because we all do. Whether you’re in pre-school or a top executive, everyone does it. And everyone needs it.
THE SECOND MYTH IS THAT ALL NETWORKERS ARE SHARKS: THEY ALL WANT SOMETHING.
False. The actions of the few do not alter what the concept and the practice truly is.
WHO REALLY NEEDS NETWORKING?
We ALL NEED NETWORKING. It doesn’t matter what job you are in, where you rank, even if you are not looking for a job, if you are unemployed, if you are a student, stay at home parent, regardless of age or owning your own business. Which leads to the next question:
WHY DO WE NEED IT?
There are payoffs to networking. We essentially build a community of whom we wish to interact with. Some relationships will result in hiring the right people, working with a great team, landing a contract, a career, an important lead for information or a business prospect. It is about connecting the people with the right people. And most importantly, it is about the relationship. Why? Because people are likely to refer based on a genuine relationship with a genuine person.
Great. So everyone needs it. But you’re still scared. Why?
BOOT THE FEAR OUT OF NETWORKING
To build confidence and success in anything requires practice. We all know how to talk. And we all know how to small talk with our friends and family. Fear is based on a comfort zone and perceptions. It’s like dating. All that pressure to impress someone is superficial. Break through your discomfort and have that conversation. Words aren’t going to kill you.
HOW TO NETWORK WITH CLASS
How we network says something about our reputation. Great networking involves all 13 of these networking etiquette elements. There are lots of online resources, books and classes. Most importantly, get out there and introduce yourself. It’s day one of school again. You’ve got a fresh start.
13 ELEMENTS FOR SUCCESSFUL NETWORKING
- Invest time in your image for the industry and event that you are in: dress and groom appropriately, look presentable. Impressions matter.
- Make eye contact.
- Smile and be friendly.
- Be yourself.
- Listen to what people are saying.
- Humility, honor, respect, sincerity and trustworthy: GENUINE actions and words that depict these qualities are more likely to open the right doors for you.
- Give: help others. Be generous. Offer suggestions or solutions or offer to scout for people.
- Enthusiasm: positive energy and attitude creates cooperation.
- Advance others’ interests without expecting anything in return.
- Associate with like-minded people: notice and engage with people who give to others.
- Show gratitude.
- Handshake: greet and depart with one.
- Follow up on referrals.
WHAT NETWORKING IS NOT
Networkers Behaving Badly
We’ve all had our run-ins with bad networkers. Some may come across like a sleazy sales pusher, a hunter looking for prey. Why? Because they have not been taught the correct way to interact. Simply put, networking is none of the following:
- Networking is not a sales pitch.
- Networking is not about lying or deceiving or shady contracts.
- Networking is not about desperate recruitment.
- Networking is not about making a deal.
- Networking is not desperation.
In order to drive this point further, let me introduce to you 10 types of bad networkers. These actions are socially unacceptable and will leave a person with ZERO business.
10 TYPES OF BAD NETWORKERS (AKA “DEAL BREAKERS”) AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
I have had my share of interactions with bad networkers, herein referred to as “vultures” – the serpent-like opportunists, slithering around, uncaring to build any rapport. Or if they do, it is a fake rapport. You will see the signs. They are persistent and unrelenting to back off when asked to do so. Some may use intimidation, shaming tones (to invoke feeling guilty or weak) and wording of aggressive superiority to make their audience feel inferior in order to get people to buy into their sales pitch. Vultures are takers. They will steal business and hurt relationships. They are not interested in giving.
Do you recognize any?
- THE CHRONIC MESSENGER: You receive numerous desperate and urgent text messages, emails, social media messages and/or phone call invitations for meetings or to attend an event from people who refuse to share any information on what the presentation is about. Or, after you decline the event, they refuse to leave you alone. What to do? Clearly communicate that you are not interested in receiving these communications and ask to be removed from the list.
- TIME LEECHES: This is no different than The Chronic Messenger, except that the timing of their disturbing messages (this would apply to SMS/text messages and phone calls) is terribly annoying. I received text messages at 2am and 6am (from people who knew I was in the same time zone as they were), requesting to get my business. Next. What to do? Clearly communicate that you are not interested in receiving these communications and ask to be removed from the list.
- CIRCLE ACCESS ABUSERS: Requests from badly-behaving people to connect them to someone in your circle. OR: Requests from people who do not care to build rapport with you nor anyone in your circle, but they want you to promote them, their products or their cause to someone or your entire circle. They are impatient and behave badly when you decline to give up your contacts or promote their cause to your circle. They refuse to respect your choice. Note: If they treat you like this, they won’t treat your people with care either. What to do? Nicely explain that it is your choice to whom you give access to your circle and/or explain why their approach/product/service is not a fit for your endorsement at this time. What changes do they need to make to bring them into your circle?
- THE RAPPORT KILLERS: Deceiving people into a friendship only to have products pushed on them to buy. What to do? Call them out on this and explain why this does not work for you. Being real with people gets them to back off. If you dance their dance, they will always linger on.
- THE SHOW-OFF: This is a bragger who will use your time to showcase who they met (real or fake name-dropping), how much business they do, and in short, sing their own praises to paint a grand portrait of themselves. They will never surface for air and will not allow you to speak. They show no interest in you because they are insecure. They are fear driven. Genuine networkers are different: they are confident, they listen, care and build rapport. And, when they provide referrals, their demeanor is humble. What to do? Genuinely ask them how you can be of service. This is a humbling question that strikes people at a deep level -it shows that you care!
- THE CARROT AND STICK ABUSERS: They hook you with a friendship and nicely and explicitly state that they are giving you some type of material (e.g. a brochure, DVD, CD, book) to keep for your own use. In a few days, they will inquire for your feedback on the material, only to angrily request it back immediately once you express you have not read the material or are disinterested in the product/service. (In some cases, I was contacted every 6 hours for two days for a meeting. When I declined, the salesperson wanted the materials back the next day.) What to do? Explain that you were told that it was for your use, you can happily return it and also offer to be of service to them. You will be amazed how the pressure to make money drives some people. It is worth getting to know people -even over coffee to show that you care. This act of building relationships will go further than you think.
- THE FALSE ENDORSEMENT MANAGER: The unauthorized use of your name, image, logo, website, etc. along with false quotations, to endorse a product, service, person or business, either online or offline, for something you have never given permission to endorse. What to do? Request in writing for the false endorsement to be removed and provide clips/copies of the alleged endorsement.
- THE PAPER-TIGER STALKER: At events where your business card was found on a networking table, or was given to a person, the person adds you to their mailing list and spams your inbox and voicemail with requests to buy their product. In one of my experiences, I engaged in a dialogue and I asked how I could help their business. They immediately ceased emailing and phoning me. Why? Because all they wanted was an exchange of money. And what’s wrong with that? It should be about the relationship and service. It is wrong to beg, plead and harass people for business. What to do? Request in writing how you can help, or ask to be removed from their mailing and calling list.
- THE DISCRIMINATOR: The discriminator will throw some demeaning words your way, avoid you completely or blatantly tell you why they are avoiding you. This will often be linked to their judgments: gender-based (anti-female, anti-male, anti-gay), perceptions of wealth, racism, language, experience, age, etc. These are violators of political correctness and humanity. Examples:
- On Wealth: “Oh, you must be a big shot.” From these people, there is an attitude of disgust dealing with people who are or may appear as wealthy. Consequently, there is the opposite attitude: “You look too young to have any serious self wealth… I only deal with people making over $80K.”
- On Age, Gender and Race: Refusal to take a gender seriously, avoiding the person, refusing to interact with them, even if it means a smile or handshake, much more an actual introduction. What to do? Speak up and move on and make friends elsewhere.
- THE CRASHER: This is an interruption of other people’s conversation. I’ve seen where people just jump into a conversation without a handshake, interrupting a conversation amongst two or more people. What to do? Respectfully acknowledge them by asking their name and find a way to engage them in the conversation or ask them to politely wait a minute.
FINAL WORDS ABOUT NETWORKING
You choose whom you want to associate with. At the end of the day, networking is a graceful activity that results in life-long relationships. Choose people with integrity and those who practice due diligence to protect their social circles. Practice compassion and educate people. And take a stand. As they say, birds of a feather flock together. So why not choose something positive and constructive?
Posted: Feb 26, 2015, 11:22pm EST
Emily Ramdas is a mastermind consultant, writer and entrepreneur with a creative overdrive and an eye for detail. She is also the creator of a zombie project, a best selling creative journal on Amazon.com with many more forthcoming books.