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From networking to relationship building

“Networking”. I can hear you recoiling already.

We all know we should network, but most of us mostly still avoid it. Let’s take a minute to analyse what the word means. To network means to expand the number of people you know professionally.

That is it.

Words have power (exhibit A recoiling to the word “relationship building”) so let’s change the language. For the rest of this post I’m going to call networking relationship building – a word with much more benign, even positive connotations. And instead of your network, just say your contacts.

So what are the common reasons (excuses!) that stop people from relationship building?

I’d say there are a few but two of those can all be grouped under the heading of “What will people think of me”, ie. It’s comes down to a fear of being judged.

Numero uno is fear of rejection. Well, people saying no to you is as much part of life as breathing. Stop attaching so much importance to a no thank you (or even silence, which is a lazy no. A “no” is not a critique of you, your personality or your values.

But how could you avoid any sense of rejection altogether? The key is to grow your contacts when you aren’t looking or a new job. Then you can concentrate on building strong relationships without the pressure to ask for a job. How can you be rejected if you haven’t asked for anything!?

Another common fear is thinking you can’t “do” small talk.

Really?

What about all you your relationships with your friends, partners or work colleagues. Every relationship starts with small talk.

It’s nothing more than a way to start conversations with new people you don’t know yet and avoiding controversial subjects. The keys to being a champion small talker are:
• open questions (you can prepare in advance)
• good eye contact
• a smile
• active listening*

Of those active listening is the most important because I for one find it kinda difficult holding a conversation if I don’t know what the other person said!
*I will expand on active listening is my next post)

Another excuse is “oh but it’s soo time consuming”.
Ok, you may need to invest a bit of time up front on your CV, digital footprint and social media accounts.

But once you have done that your relationship building activities should take few minutes a day online. Face to face activities should take up one or two evenings a month (out of 30). It’s as a small investment of your time in your future.

The last common barrier is not knowing who to contact to begin expand the number of people who know you/of you.

Thanks mainly to LinkedIn here are literally hundreds millions of people globally you could potentially contact. But start with you and what kind of job you want. Define up to a maximum of 4 job roles. Because knowing the job you want narrows down the people you should be contacting. Now you know what relationship building is, why it’s important and some ways to take the fear out of it.

I will expand on the “how to” of relationship building in another post.

Have a great week

Ian

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