Here are 10 of the worst myths about networking, and their current, more sensible replacements:
1. Networking means meeting as many people as you can.
If possessing a huge stack of business cards or having met every business person in your city was a ticket to riches, this might be true. But it’s not. Networking gives you a chance to meet new people, but quality trumps quantity in human relationships, every time.
2. Networking means telling people about your business whenever you get a chance.
There’s nothing wrong with letting the folks at your gym, at your place of worship, and at your book club know what you do for a living. But people will quickly forget the details of your professional life. What they’ll remember is you — if you approach them with a desire to learn about them, as well.
3. Networking is hard work.
It may be that you’re working too hard. Networking happens naturally if you introduce yourself to people, stay in touch with people you’ve met, and think, in every interaction, “How could I help this person?”
4. Networking should start when you’re job-hunting.
If you get the call that you’ve been selected to compete on “American Idol,” it’s too late to start an exercise program or go on a diet. When you’re out of work, it’s a bit late in the game to start networking toward your next job. If you have to start then, do it; but it’s far better to start networking now, and build contacts for the job search that will inevitably come your way if you’re a working person who isn’t close to retirement.
5. Networking is for schmoozers.
Schmoozing is by far the least important networking skill. Good listening is far more useful to a relationship-builder than the ability to spit a thirty-second elevator pitch into someone’s face.
6. Networking is only for entrepreneurs.
If you don’t believe that having business contacts and experts at your disposal would be useful for you as a corporate person, talk to any top business leader and ask his or her opinion. It’s essential to be connected to other professionals, not just for “it’s-who-you-know” reasons but in order to get perspectives on your business and career issues that are different from?your own.
7. Networking is a waste of time.
Your networking time will surely be wasted if you approach each interaction as an opportunity hawk your wares. Ditto if you believe that your job as a networker is to tell every person you meet all about your job search and express no interest in him or her. If you can get past these bad networking ideas and cultivate some relationships, your time will be well spent.
8. Networking is expensive.
Joining a Yahoo! group is free. The popular networking site LinkedIn has a free membership level and 15 million users. Plenty of face-to-face networking events in your town will cost you nothing more than parking or bus fare.
9. Networking is phony.
If you go to a party at your sister’s house and meet her boyfriend’s dad, is your conversation phony? Networking conversations need not be any different than any other interactions between new acquaintances. It’s up to you.
10. Networking is a thing of the past.
Person-to-person relationships are more important in business than ever. If anything, networking is a thing of the future.
Liz Ryan is a 25-year HR veteran, former Fortune 500 VP and an internationally recognized expert on careers and the new millennium workplace. She is the author of “Happy About Online Networking,” a popular speaker on workplace and work/life topics, and the leader of the global Ask Liz Ryan online community. Contact Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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