I was recently interviewed by the folks at MBA Highway Blog. The below appeared on their site on January 18. 2011.
In this post, we’ll hear from speaker and author, Thom Singer, who is an expert in social networking and personal branding. After you read this post on our flaws in Networking, make sure to check out his site to gain a lot more insight on how you can become a much better networker. Thom can be found at www.thomsinger.com. As an MBA student or graduate, you’ll want to read his book, “Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Graduates.”
Now….a few words from Thom Singer.
First of all, we live and serve the ‘John Wayne Cowboy’ society, which is a culture where everyone believes we have to achieve success alone. We think success is for loners but this is hardly true. In reality, it doesn’t matter who you are, from Bill Gates to the president to a person running a successful chain of chicken restaurants, you can’t do everything. Our society is driven by a mentality that we can’t ask for help, because we believe no one is out there to help us. Mentally, we start out totally wrong. There are people who can and will help. Success comes from long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.
Secondly, networking has gotten a bad name over the years. Can you believe it? When people think of networking, they think of ‘takers.’ We think that people only show up when they have a need. For example, “I just got laid off and I better go network because I need a job.” Another common example is with Sales people. When they are not making their quotas, they will call everyone in their network to ask them to make referrals for them. They don’t keep in touch the rest of the time.. On the flip side of this argument is that networking is always happening. It’s a give and take. It’s not something you just do when you need something because people see right through that really quick. So you have to be constantly engaged and be willing to help and serve other people. Don’t keep score. But that’s not the way many people think of networking.
Another problem with networking is the definition. If I ask ten people to give me a definition of networking, I’d probably get 7 or 8 different definitions. The definition I like to use is “the creation of long term and mutually beneficial relationships between two or more where everyone involved succeeds more because of the relationship than they would without the relationship.” The key is that it is mutually beneficial and everyone is successful. People too often overlook this aspect of networking, and fear they might just look needy or like a taker. But if you’re doing it right, you won’t because you’ll be giving far more than you are getting. That never looks bad.
The final reason we struggle with networking is that we often witness many successful people who have law degrees, MBAs and engineering degrees and who are mostly left-brained. They are thoughtful, study hard and do research. They never would be confused as the social butterflies of their world. They are self-identified as introverted. They think it is hard to go out and talk to people, so they do not place a priority on the activity. The surprising reality here is that introverts are better networkers. If we go back to the other examples I mentioned when all you’re doing is talking about yourself, no one is going to like it. No one likes a braggart. Unlike the extroverts, Introverts ask questions and listen intensely to what others are saying. Extroverts can sometimes be focused on what they are going to say next while the other person is talking, missing the entire message. When you are listening to the other person, you are more likely to see where you can make the connection to help them. Most introverts tell me after they get to know someone they are more comfortable in talking about themselves. If an introvert goes in and asks a lot of questions, then they’ll learn something about that person. Knowing a little about someone breeds familiarity and so the introvert becomes more comfortable in sharing things freely.
Networking is your key to career success. Do it incorrectly and you go nowhere. Become proficient at it and you’ll fill your life with opportunity.
Thanks, Thom. We appreciate the time you’ve spent with us. You can find out more about Thom, his books, articles, speaking events and blogs at www.thomsinger.com.
Todd Rhoad, MSEE, MBA is Director at BT Consulting, a career consulting firm in Altanta, and author of “Blitz The Ladder” and the soon to be released “MBA Owner’s Manual.” Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.