Ask the question, ‘Do you love networking?’ and most people will turn up their noses, wince, and say they’d rather stick a pin in their eyes.
We have all been told that networking works, that it is a critical part of personal and professional success but it’s become a dirty word – and I get it.

There really is nothing worse than the Rubbernecker who’s always looking for a more interesting person to speak to; the Clinger you can’t get rid of, or even the Promoter who goes on and on about themselves – how awesome they are and why you should be grateful to know them.

So many of us avoid networking because we see it as exactly that – hard work. We’ve made it all too difficult and exhausting. The problem is that often the events we choose to attend have little relevance or value for us.

For most of us, when we do network, it’s within the small orbit of our immediate circle, tapping into like-minded circles of sympathetic people. And while this is fine as far as it goes, it has limitations over time. By minimising difference of opinion and experience, it breeds laziness, stifles growth and limits potential. So why bother?

The answer is simple – you can’t get anywhere in life on your own.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, names Larry Summers, from the US Treasury Department and 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 Salomon, managing partner of the investment bank where Bloomberg first worked.

A strong, connected and mutually beneficial network provides you with a series of stepping stones to success. They are your intelligence bank, your board of advisers and your marketing machine. Networking the right way is all about the intentional support of another, collaborating and sharing what you know and who you know, to push each other forward in life.

The active and mutual support of others helps to:

  • Boost confidence
  • Achieve clear goals
  • Open doors to opportunity
  • Create business leads
  • Support decision making
  • Pave the path to success.

Countless articles and books have been written about the importance of networking. 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.”

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. As Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone puts it, the beauty of networking is that “by giving your time and expertise and sharing them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone”.

Create a new networking plan of action – one that puts you in control, identifies the right people for you and creates the right behaviour that will nurture your network for mutual success.

Taking control of who you know means taking control of your career, your business and your life.