That's something writer and consultant Frances Kay is keen to emphasise in Successful Networking. In what is essentially a "how to" guide for being better at making contacts, she makes it clear that effective people skills can and must be learned.
The alternative is fraught with risks. The biggest has to be "missing out" - on promotions, projects, sales leads, or just on the chance to be well informed and keep finding new friends.
Kay's focus is on providing advice and encouragement for the less outgoing. That gives her a potentially wide readership, considering the number of people for whom networking doesn't come naturally, or who regard entering a roomful of strangers as one of their greatest fears.
Having established what self-interest requires, Kay sets out techniques and tactics to widen one's circle and with confidence. In 190-odd pages, she deals with everything from overcoming inhibitors, such as nerves and shyness, to starting conversations, making a good first impression, and remembering that effective communication is a two-way process.
"The right attitude really matters," she notes, explaining that the key to this is being curious about other people. "The best advice is to be proactive. Nothing will happen if you don't make an effort."
Besides aspects of attitude, behaviour and presentation, Kay looks at practical ways that make it easier to build a network and keep track of contacts. These range from having a proper system to manage all business cards, setting goals, and identifying whom you want to meet or know better - and how to do it.
There is plenty of advice to help readers take the initiative in social situations and conduct themselves with self-assurance, whether in the office, in a client meeting, or at a networking event.
One quibble, though, is that the case studies used to illustrate most chapters seem contrived, and some of the topics and examples - "don't try to network in a private flying club if you can't afford to buy or charter a plane" - are not generally relevant.
- Whatever your job or personality, you can’t afford not to network
- Learn to recognise different types – decision makers, influencers, bridges, links and gatekeepers
- As practice, try to start a conversation with one “stranger” every day
- Don’t confuse a networking opportunity with selling
- Successful networking is about understanding other people
Coming soon ...
Author Jeffrey Meshel
Publisher Hatherleigh Press
In this title, to be published on September 28, business tycoon and best-selling author Jeffrey Meshel shows you how to build successful, long-term connections by tapping into the power of six important lessons.
They are: receive by giving; communicate with passion; collect relationships; stand out and communicate confidence; always improve yourself to attract meaningful relationships; and learn to connect online.