How to Improve Your Networking Skills Even if You’re Shy

Posted on: April 16th, 2019 by Pat Mesiti No Comments

Last year I wrote a series of articles on how to profit from your passion and I focussed on setting up profitable online startup businesses. I also looked at the art of networking and self-promotion. If you want to succeed in business or establish a successful career you have to know how to network – both in the cyber and professional world. Now I have a confession. Sometimes I want to retreat from the world and bury myself in a good book. I spend my time writing speeches and blogs and books through the week, and afterhours I just want to knock off, but in this world networking is not optional, it is mandatory. You have to keep reaching out to people on Facebook and LinkedIn, after all it is called LinkedIn and not LinkedOut. In many professions you need to keep posting up your good news stories. You also need to reach out to contacts. Yes, all this takes time and effort, and sometimes it’s just not appealing. Sometimes we all just want a rest from this world. So how do you network effectively when you don’t want to network?

I came across a brilliant article on the BBC website recently called ‘Networking for people who hate to network’ by Karen Wickre. I did some research about her online and discovered that she is a career consultant and was once the editorial director of Twitter and an executive with Google! Karen has recently released a book, Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections that Count.

Karen has a theory that there is a less intensive way of networking that you can do when it suits you. She refers to this style of networking as the ‘loose touch’. She believes it is useful that we stay in ‘loose’ contact with lots of people rather than networking extensively or only staying in close touch with a few people. Karen points out that we know a lot more people than we realise, former colleagues, friends of friends, old school mates, people we’ve met at conferences and at some point we may need one or two of these people. 

She also points out that people who move outside our direct circle will have ‘different’ information and contacts to those, so when we are looking for a new business contact, a new idea or even a new job it will probably come from outside our ‘old’ group of friends. So we will need to reach out beyond our usual circle. Karen cites the example of a former colleague she accidently bumped into who was looking for a new job. The woman told Karen she hated networking, but Karen suggested reaching out to their former team – all people the woman liked. Bingo, within a couple of weeks the woman had a new job that she tracked down through these former colleagues.

Karen says we should all keep in ‘loose touch’ with lots of people. Perhaps send out an email or befriend them on LinkedIn and then just email them or post something up to two-three times a year. That is enough to remind them that you are still alive and they are still on your radar.

Karen also recommended a book, Friend of a Friend, by business professor David Burkus, who also extols the idea that it is the people we already know who are best placed to help us.

“When we have a career setback… we tend to only tell a close circle of friends who may or may not be able to help,” Prof Burkus said. “Instead, we ought to go to our weak and dormant ties, tell them our story, and see what opportunities they have. Even better, we ought to start a regular practice of re-engaging with our weak and dormant ties.”

Basically you should be constantly expanding your business contacts by adding them to your social media channels and then just check in with them from time to time. Needless to say you do not want anything too personal or compromising on your social media channels. Karen likes Twitter,  LinkedIn, Instagram and Slack – I’d never heard of that one before. She shares news stories, relevant videos, cartoons and short greetings. She also loves receiving these – short and sweet work messages.

And she is constantly growing her social media network, adding on new people she hits it off with on an almost weekly basis. Her advice is just to keep chipping away at it. You don’t have to devote hours to networking, but you do need to keep at it.

Have you ever thought of listing all the people you know and grouping them according to categories? If you are serious about networking and finding new work opportunities I think that would well be worth the while. Remember it is often the people who are the periphery of your networks who are of most value and may just be able to tell you about a new job or new market.

I think Karen’s book, Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections that Count, could be well worth a look at. I’ll share the publisher’s Tourchstone description:

‘The former Google executive, editorial director of Twitter and self-described introvert offers networking advice for anyone who has ever cancelled a coffee date due to social anxiety—about how to nurture a vibrant circle of reliable contacts without leaving your comfort zone.

Networking has garnered a reputation as a sort of necessary evil in the modern business world. Some do relish the opportunity to boldly work the room, introduce themselves to strangers, and find common career ground—but for many others, the experience is often awkward, or even terrifying.

The common networking advice for introverts are variations on the theme of overcoming or “fixing” their quiet tendencies. But Karen Wickre is a self-described introvert who has worked in Silicon Valley for 30 years. She shows you to embrace your true nature to create sustainable connections that can be called upon for you to get—and give—career assistance, advice, introductions, and lasting connections.’

I also want to read Prof David Burkus’s book, Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career, which is available on Amazon. This is what the publisher had to say about it: 

What if the best way to grow your network ISN’T by introducing yourself to strangers at cocktail parties, handing out business cards, or signing up for the latest online tool, but by developing a better understanding of the existing network that’s already around you?

We know that it’s essential to reach out and build your network. But did you know that it’s actually your weaker or former contacts who will be the most helpful to you? Or that many of our best efforts at meeting new people simply serve up the same old opportunities we already have?

In this startling new look at the art and science of networking, business school professor David Burkus digs deep to find the unexpected secrets that reveal the best ways to grow your universe.

Based upon entertaining case studies and scientific research, this practical and revelatory guide shares what the best networkers really do…and it looks a lot less like collecting business cards and making random introductions and a lot more like fostering authentic connections and seeking out diverse new voices.’

Happy networking everyone, but remember – stay loose!

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ABOUT PAT MESITI

Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.

 

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