In case you don’t consider networking the highest priority in your career, here’s something to think about: Most jobs aren’t listed, so they aren’t available to you unless someone tells you about them.
Also, people who have mentors are more likely to get promoted than people who don’t. And mentoring doesn’t just fall into your lap – you need a network to provide you with choices until you find a mentor who fits.
Are you networking well? You might think you are doing all the right things, but here are three common mistakes many people make:
1. Thinking in terms of data collection.
You don’t have to keep track of tons of little details about people you barely remember, because they aren’t the people who can help you. The people you can count on are the ones you make a real connection with, probably over time, with repeated meaningful exchanges. They’ll stay at the top of your mind because of your genuine connection.
There will be people you really want to connect with because you know they’ll be able to help you a lot. You don’t need a databank to remember them – you just need a to-do list, where you can add an item that reminds you to ‘ping’ them.
Other relationships will grow organically, over time – if you are patient, responsive and vulnerable. Just remember to focus on making memorable connections, not remembering data points.
2. Telling yourself that you’re shy.
Everybody feels shy sometimes. People assume I’m an extrovert when they meet me because I do so much public speaking. But, in fact, I was so shy in college that I used to bring books to parties because I couldn’t imagine having to talk with people – so I just read in a corner. Crazy, right? But I’m proof that you can overcome shyness.
The Shyness Research Institute reports that shyness is actually the fear that you won’t be the smartest, funniest person in the room. The irony, though, is that a good icebreaker is about being nice, not about being a genius. People respond well when you use a basic overture like, "Hi, how do you know the hostess?" because they know you’re being vulnerable and starting a conversation with someone you don’t know.
Some people truly are shy, but it's typically about sensory input. They can’t receive a lot of input and give a lot of output at the same time, and need a very controlled environment. This doesn’t mean they can’t network – it just means the networking must take place in a small, intimate setting rather than a large, bustling room.
3. Scoffing at anything resembling courtship.
You already know how to network – you’ve been doing it ever since you started dating. So you’ve had a lot of practice.
Think about your comfort zone for dating, and then get into it for business as well. Do you open up socially in bars? Then go to a lot of cocktail parties. Did you meet your mate on JDate? Then focus on online networking opportunities like LinkedIn and instant messaging.
Even if you’re meeting someone you’d never be interested in for a date, you can still use dating techniques. After all, you have to woo the person into your corner of the company somehow. Besides, Cosmopolitan magazine recently reported that men say the best place to meet women is at work, which really sheds light on the dating analogy.
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, really takes this to heart. He sent me flowers after blowing off an interview we’d scheduled, and you know what? It worked.