Business is, and always has been, about people and the people you know.
In Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network, Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas found, “The executives who consistently rank in the top 20% of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks … made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy.”
And yet when it comes to networking, most people run and hide, roll their eyes with a ‘do I have to?’ or shiver at the perceived ickiness of networking.
Everyone needs a network to support their personal and professional growth.
It’s time to demystify the 5 myths of networking and make networking work for you.
Extroverts make better networkers
No. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you are capable of networking – you just have to do so in a way that works for you. Extroverts and introverts both bring value to a conversation and a connection.
An introvert will generally:
- Think before they talk
- Engage in deep conversation
- Focus one on one
- Be thoughtful in their follow up
An extrovert will generally:
- Jump right in and introduce themselves
- Engage in light banter
- Socialise with many people
- Find follow-up fun
The key is to embrace your natural style and work to your strengths. If you are an introvert, you are likely to be more energised in a small group setting in a quieter location where you can engage in deeper, more thoughtful conversation.
If attending a larger scale event, get comfortable with talking to one or two people versus the perceived pressure of having to ‘work the room’. An extrovert, on the other hand, will love the larger networking events where there is a lot going on and be inspired by the collective energy of the crowd. There is no right or wrong, better or worse. Both introverts and extroverts can make incredible networkers.
It’s a numbers game
No. If you think networking is about the size of your mailing list, the number of people in your CRM system, your significant number of connections on LinkedIn or even the jam-packed nature of your calendar with scheduled networking events, then you’ve got it all wrong.
Here’s the bottom line. It’s about quality, not quantity. We don’t necessarily need more contacts, we don't need more friends and we don't need to spend more time connecting online. If this were all that we needed, then every single one of us would be enjoying unparalleled success through the sheer number of opportunities we have to connect.
What matters more is the investment of time, energy and commitment with the right people – those who will guide and mentor you, and cheer you on, and people who will help shape your future. Networking the right way is about knowing the right people, not how many people you know.
The bigger the event, the better the networking opportunity
No. Too many think that there is a direct correlation between the size of the event and the business leads we have access to. Derek Coburn, author of Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections, says, “Most events are not worth the time or money as you’re unlikely to make useful contacts”.
The reason, he argues, is because most events of this size are a melting pot of people from different professions and with differing objectives for attending. I would add that the larger the event, the more likely the ‘what’s in it for me mentality’ presents itself.
I personally host private, closed-door networking dinners around the country for no more than 16 business owners and senior leaders. These small, intimate dinners create a forum for people cross-industry and cross-function to share what they are currently working on and to ask, in the safety of the room, for the help they need.
The depth of conversation, support and value exchange generated, as well as new connections made, generates a significant return on the time spent.
I’m not interesting enough to network well.
In his book, Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell proposed that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.
It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with Gladwell’s theory, the point is that every one of us is an expert at something because, whether we realise it or not, we have built up time and hours perfecting our expertise. Start standing for something. Share what you know.
Networking takes a lot of time and I don't have it
No, it doesn’t. Sure, if you are attending a different network function every night or spending endless hours on LinkedIn and finding it hard to get to know your hundreds of connections, you may have a valid point. But you are doing it all wrong.
Networking starts with a small group of people where you can exchange value continuously, sharing what is required to drive mutual success. Networking does not have to be hard work.
The worth of your network is built through thoughtful and considered connection. In my latest bestselling book, It’s Who You Know, I share the concept of a personal network starting with 4 key people and ultimately 12 people that will fast-track your networking success.
These numbers are much easier to manage in terms of the time needed to build and elevate the relationship, to create your marketing machine, your intelligence bank and your board of advisors. You might even enjoy spending time with these people due to the insight shared.
Your network matters. Make it work for you.