Networking. A word that strikes fear into almost anyone–right up there with public speaking. “Blah, do I have to walk up to strangers and try to not look like a loser? No thanks, I’ll just stay home.” It’s an understandable reaction if you either a) don’t have a good approach; or b) have had a bad experience with bad networkers.

325345_medAs the holidays approach and you are forced into high gear, do you know what good networking looks like? Let’s learn a bit about networking by examining a few types of networkers that you don’t want to emulate.

The Egomaniac: You’ve studied up on your networking. You know that it’s about them not you. Ok, not a problem. So, you go in with a little “tell me about yourself” and they are off. Twenty minutes later, you are acutely aware that they are perfect and wonderful and have zero interest in anything you have to say. Remember, when someone asks you about you, return the favor. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Networking is about building relationships.

The Clinger: This is the person that won’t leave the group that they know to meet people that they don’t. When I started networking, my co-worker literally told me I wasn’t allowed to talk to her. At the time, I thought it was unduly cruel but she was right, and it changed my networking going forward. I network to build relationships with people I otherwise might not meet. On the flip side, clinging to a pack is intimidating to someone and may prevent them from approaching you. Make sure you are not missing out on your next great contact.

The Salesperson: This is the networker who doesn’t understand networking. They approach networking from a “what can you do for me?” standpoint. Unfortunately, this is the fastest way to make sure someone doesn’t want to help you. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger on the street and say, “I am looking for a job; can you help me?” A relationship needs to be established before favors are requested. Gather information, ask them about themselves and look for common interests. It’s really just relationship building 101.

So remember, when you are networking through the holidays, engage in polite, give-and-take conversation. Break away from the group you came with to open your world. Finally, look at networking as a way to create new relationships, not as a way to make a sale or get a job.

What types of networkers do you see?

Susan currently serves as Chair for OI Partners and is a founding partner of ICC Inc. She is responsible for leading operations, finance and strategy. With more than two decades of business experience, Susan has developed the ability to end “business bloat” (inefficiencies, cross-purposes and miscommunication) and retool companies into sleeker, smoother, more strategically focused organizations.

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