I don't really enjoy parties, I hate talking on the phone and I don't have a lot of patience for idle chit chat. But I know these are the kinds of things that help keep my professional network alive. And having a thriving professional network is pretty much essential in today's work environment.
So is there a way to network that won't be so painful?
Thankfully, the answer is "yes". From the experts, here are five ways you can keep your network alive.
1. Have a positive attitude.
Okay, I appreciate the irony, especially if you share my position on networking! From the Washington Post Career Coach, "Networks are critical to our success." We have to bite the bullet and here's why.
2. Be prepared.
If you are approaching networking formally - like for a job search when informational interviewing is an important tool - be ready to manage the entire interaction. The TimesUnion's Tom Denham offers a list of dos and don'ts (including some great questions to ask) to make the meeting a success.
3. Let people who are good at networking help you.
When you work hard to cultivate your core network, you build trust and then, when you really need a referral or introduction, your core network is there, ready to help. Ivan Misner from Entrepreneur explains the value in Key to Networking.
4. Let social media help you.
Penelope Trunk, the wizard behind Brazen Careerist, talks about the value in using tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging. Goodness knows blogging has worked for her (and if you aren't following Brazen Careerist on Facebook, you should be. She offers great content for career development.
5. Face your fears.
So you have read tips 1-4 and thought, how nice but I can't do this. I am still too chicken. You aren't alone. Denise O'Berry at The QuickBase Blog has some down-to-earth tips to help you get over your initial fears. Three simple tricks that will help you take those first steps to getting out there. Remember, we are all human and generally, other people want to help you succeed. You really have nothing to lose!
And finally, I just came across this from Inc. Magazine, an article by Harvey Mackay. He suggests there is one Golden Rule for networking:
My Golden Rule of Networking is simple: Don't keep score...What makes that a little tricky is that it goes against every naturally acquisitive, ambitious and self-serving impulse in you. [read the entire story]
I hope these help you stay on track. We owe it to ourselves to invest this time in our careers and our relationships. I would love to hear if you have other ideas. Please comment on this story if you do!