Networking Is a Dirty Word

Networking.

Uncomfortable, dirty, exploitive and inauthentic. And that’s just for starters.

Most of us recognize these associations that people have about networking because we’ve thought these things too. Perhaps it’s because we’ve seen people who behaved in ways that were unattractive and then let it define for us what networking is.

“If that’s what it takes, I’m not doing it.”

Maybe it’s because we were led to understand early in life that those who get ahead deserve it because of their hard work. The heads-down, sleeves-up, get-down-to-it, don’t-waste-time kind.

“If I work hard, the right people will notice.”

Having an aversion to networking is common. So why do it if so many find it unappealing? Because to reach your goals, whether it’s influencing, getting promoted, finding allies for an initiative, or transitioning to a new direction, you need new people to make something happen.

It’s About Time

Networking can be inefficient. You’re not always right about your choice of events you go to, or whether you’ll find the people that you hope to meet. And follow up can be spotty. The return on your time isn’t certain and that’s why I feel really great when I’ve put myself out there, gone to an event, mixed it up with a group and then made a valuable connection. Each time it happens (and yes it happens regularly!) I’ve wondered why I don’t do it more often.

Time is often the reason people leave network building until they can’t avoid it anymore. They do it when they really need it. And that’s late because we all know that connections are developed over time.

I remember the very first book I picked up about how to network long before Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and many others that followed. It was written by a businessman who made millions in the envelope sales business. That sounded comical to me then and still does. I was young enough to be amazed that networking was a subject of study, and relieved to have discovered it after going out on my own as an independent consultant the first time. The book title offers great advice. I’ve never forgotten it but I admit that I haven’t always heeded its wisdom.

Dig your well before you get thirsty.

Smart, heh? Pass it on.

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