Why should you network and how to do it effectively?

By Nan Nan Liu-Maffetone | Strong Female Leaders

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Why should you network and how to do it effectively?
Of all the reasons why certain professionals don't network, one common denominator is that most of the "non-networkers" are lone wolves who have achieved success by their own merits. Therefore, they feel little need to reach out to others, and avoid networking due to the sheer habit of succeeding alone. What they fail to realize, however, is that their lone wolf tendencies can brand them as cold and unfriendly.

Furthermore, to achieve top level success later on, these high achieving professionals will need to form strategic alliances, seek mentors, and connect with others. For example, many elite professional groups require peer recommendation to join. Without one, you can't get into that circle and will not get too far. Networking, therefore, becomes a fundamental activity that you must learn to enjoy.

Still, if you are a natural lone wolf, networking can feel uncomfortable, if not painful. What's required, then, is a mindset shift of re-framing the process into an enjoyable experience. To ease you into it, we created three simple steps that help you go from dreading networking to having fun with it.
1. Re-frame your view.
Like you, most high-achieving lone wolves see networking as slimy work that falls beneath their intellectual capacity. Though sometimes true, seeing networking in such negative light is still a biased opinion, and may hinder you from achieving the end goal.

To adopt a more positive viewpoint, try substituting the word "networking" with "making long-term connections." Investing in lasting relationships is an activity that knowledge professionals value. By replacing "networking" with "smarter" vocabulary, you create a constructive tone and a positive mindset.
2. Be as exclusive as possible.
If you are a high achiever, you prefer being around other high achievers. If you feel that networking means surrounding yourself with lower-level aspirants who, instead of creating genuine connections, swap as many business cards as they can at buffet-like networking events, you will avoid those events like a plague.

Yet buffet-like mixers really are great for meeting new people. To enjoy them, you should set your standards before attending one. Try to create a list for the types of people you respect and wish to connect with. The list can range from change agents to thought leaders to community elders. The point is to make it as exclusive as you personally feel comfortable with. Then, create a strategy for how to connect with the people on your list. You can still swap business cards; however, you can also ask for their phone numbers or make plans to have coffee.

The goal really isn’t exclusivity, but to change your mind about networking. When the payoff switches from massive distribution to meeting interesting people, networking starts to feel exciting.

3. Identify how you network.
Every person networks differently. Finding a method that suits you enables you to enjoy it more. If you are not a big group type of person, find a smaller event, go for one on ones, or try networking online. Finding a group may be hard at first, so brainstorm where to meet others. Good places to start are alumni associations, professional clubs, or connections through LinkedIn.

After you have met someone you'd like to connect with, take action! Setting up coffee dates are fine; however, a better way to connect is to interview them for your blog or media channel. You might also recommend conferences that you can attend together.
Parting Thoughts
Many successful lone wolves pride themselves on triumphing alone. The truth, though, is that to achieve top success, no one does it in solitude. By applying the strategies above, you can turn networking into building relationships, and do so organically. It's worth the investment because: when your network grows, so do you.

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[ Disclaimer: this article includes affiliate links.]

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