Networking can unlock new opportunities in both revenue generation and professional growth. But the thought of networking often evokes negative feelings and a reluctancy to begin. In this article, Vern Schellenger of Contacts Count explains how a simple mindset shift can change both your approach to networking and the subsequent results.

What is your networker identity?  You do have one you know.  Which one of the following bests describes you?

  • Hate networking.
  • Occasionally indulge but mostly a waste of time.
  • Have some success with networking.
  • Networking and building mutually beneficial relationships has changed my life.

Networking should be viewed in the same way as any other business development competency. Just like other skills, there are behaviors, tools and strategies you can develop to learn how to network and build relationships.

In this article I will share with you the first competency for effective networking – Adopting a Positive Networker Identity. If you hate networking, find it uncomfortable and/or a waste of time it’s fair to say your networker identity is not a very positive one.

Research shows most people don’t know how to network. When you try to do something, and you don’t know how to do it, you often fail and have a negative experience. These negative experiences impact how you think, feel, and act when it comes to networking.

Adopting a Positive Networker Identity is all about changing the way you think and feel about networking. To begin, approach networking as ‘teaching and giving’ instead of ‘taking and talking.’ The logic is very simple. The more I teach you about who I am the greater likelihood you can help me in some way. The more I learn about you the greater likelihood I can give back to you in some way. The more two people can learn about each other, the more they can give to one another leading to a mutually beneficial relationship.

The 'give' may be simple and easy – sending an article, an introduction to someone in your network, or information you have that may be helpful to the other person.  The 'give' may be more substantial – letting someone know about a job opening that is their dream job. And in a mutually beneficial relationship the other person is giving back to you in a similar way. They do this because they care, just as you care about them.

Adopting a Positive Networker Identity is essential if you are going to improve your networking skills. Then, you can focus on the additional competencies that can help you develop the skills and behaviors to know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it in any conversation you have with almost anyone, anywhere.

Vern Schellenger
Contacts Count

Vern Schellenger is the President and CEO of Contacts Count, a training organization for professionals who want to grow their business or career. For the past 25 years, Contacts Count has had a singular focus – researching, understanding and developing skills and behaviors to help people learn how to make Networking an Art, Not an Accident.

If you are interested in learning more about your networking skills, take the 20-minute Contacts Count Networking Competency Assessment. You will get a score on each of the 8 competencies and an overall score of your ability to network and build relationships all in a 12-page PDF. The NCA cost $49 but PAR members and readers of this article get 50% off the retail price here.