How To Begin Improving Your Networking Skills

Before you even begin to look at engaging seriously in lots of networking effort, it is useful to look at your own temperament or disposition. This is the individual’s internal desire to network and to find value and enjoyment from the whole process of building relationships. For some people, this will be an almost irrelevant issue to debate. Their motivation to want to talk to people regularly and to network is naturally high. Talking to strangers in supermarket queues, at bus/train stops or even in the elevators is characteristic of such people. However, even if you really enjoy talking to people, it is a proven fact that most of us are not highly confident and highly motivated networkers. In fact, statistics reveal that only one in ten people is actually comfortable in striking up a relationship with a complete stranger. Unfortunately, this means that their own misgivings, fears and doubts, potentially hinder the vast majority of people. Four Networking Types In practice, you can divide people who attempt to build networking relationships into four distinct types: • The Loner (little or no networking) • The Socialiser • The User • The Relationship Builder or Networker Although our aim is to consider the fourth of these in some detail as the role to which we can all aspire (if we are not already there), let’s briefly look at each of these types in turn. The Loner • Likes to do most things by themselves (because they do it faster or better) • Doesn’t want to bother or worry other people • Feels that their knowledge and skills are often superior to most people • Only asks for help as a last resort (and when it may be too late) The Loner is an easily recognizable type, because there are times when we all believe that we will do better ourselves than if we ask others for help. The Loner will not usually want to bother anyone else, or necessarily see much point in doing so, believing that others will be slower and will set lower standards. Unfortunately, the loner attitude is a major obstacle to effective networking. We need to shift our thinking greatly in this area. We should be more willing to let others assist and we should even ask for help more often. The Socialiser • Tries to make a friend of everyone they meet • Tends to know people’s names and faces, but not what they do • Is not usually systematic or ordered about follow-up – contact is random • May not listen too deeply and is quick to move on Although the Socialiser may have a wide circle of friends and contacts, he or she knows little of substance about personal skills and resources. As a result, Socialisers do not often share their skills. The Socialiser is also a random networker, following little or no formal contact system. The User • Is likely to collect business cards without really connecting with people • Tries to make ‘sales’ or ‘pitches’ on the first encounter • Talks and focuses on own agenda, rather than ‘together’ information • Has superficial interactions • Keeps score when giving favors Unfortunately, people of this type do network widely, but in a way that creates little benefit for themselves or others. Even worse, this kind of networker tends to create a bad impression and therefore can give networking an image of being about selling, taking, bargaining and keeping score. The Builder • Has a ‘giving’ disposition or abundance mentally • Is generally happy to ask others for help or guidance • Listens and learns about people carefully • Is regularly on the look-out for useful information from which others can also benefit • Has a well-ordered and organized networking system This type of networker is what this article is all about – an individual who takes a long-term perspective on relationships with others and thinks more about what he or she can give or offer, than about the return. This type is out there for others, or on call to offer help whenever it is needed. If they cannot help in person, they usually know someone else who can. And Finally – Maintaining High Self-Esteem Apart from the Builder, one factor connects the other three types in preventing them from networking more effectively. This is the issue of self-esteem. The Loner believes in himself or herself, but not necessarily in others (especially relative strangers). The Socialiser likes people, but also very much wants to be liked by others (and therefore does not want to ask for favors). Finally, the User takes a relatively selfish view of “If I benefit or gain, I might reciprocate, otherwise I won’t.” Of course, all of these types fear rejection, obligation, being too pushy or even looking weak. All of these fears or concerns about networking need to be lessened or overcome. In a short article such as this, a topic as largely and potentially complicated as a person’s relative self-esteem cannot be covered at any level of detail. However, it is important to appreciate how low self-esteem can have a major impact on your networking efforts if it is not at least basically understood and addressed. An individual with high self-esteem is likely to build their own confidence to want to network by having a positive, open and ‘can do’ attitude. Conversely, an individual with low self-esteem is likely to lack confidence to start with. They will convince themselves (and others) that they have little that would be of interest to others in any network.

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