Food for thought

The Zen of Networking

by Holger Karsten

Networking
She was standing in the back of the room thinking to herself "Why am I doing this? I could be at home on my couch relaxing and watching my favorite TV show..." Instead she was struggling to take the next two steps into the room, locate herself at one of the tables and start a conversation with someone she didn't know. Ah, here comes the waiter with a tray of wine glasses - a secure haven at least for a few moments since the relationship and the mutual expectations are clear - a glass of wine in exchange for a warm ‘thank you’.

Networking – a Critical Success Factor
Networking has become one of the critical disciplines for career development and social advancement – however, there are several legends around networking that position it as an art that most of us will not be able to master and thus something we feel bad about – like the 10m diving platform at the pool which the coolest guys of the class climbed while the rest were standing below staring at the top and feeling physically and psychologically inferior

Networking – is it in Your Genes? 
One legend, for example, is that the ability to network and connect is largely seen as a "natural gift" or ability rather than a learnable technique. Already in school and university we learn that there are children that are simply more social and more popular than others. But we do not learn to systematically develop this ability and what we can do to build our relationships in a more structured and sustainable way. And while the fundamental element of the networking is the natural interest in others, which basically is a natural trait there are still a lot of networking elements that are learnable and adoptable – independent of a natural talent.

Networking – A Give and Take
Building the basis for a sustainable personal network requires patience, personal belief in the power of networking and the willingness to “build first, monetize later”. Surely Networking in its later stages should at best be a “give and take” - however in the beginning “giving” is definitely what is more required. 

When approaching the question on how much and what kind of networking activity should be integrated in the daily business/ leisure activities a common misinterpretation is that you have to take “every opportunity you can”. In Networking as in other area of life “class instead of mass” is the right strategy to approach it. Our time, energy and attention are the most precious assets we have so when choosing which kind of conferences, events or summits we will attend we should keep that in mind - a wise choice of those occasions that promise most “outcome” in terms of valuable relationships. 

Networking is for Everybody
Another common belief is that networking is only for the “business high society”. Anybody, in any profession and on any level can build his or her network around their key topics and interests. Obviously, a similar lifestyle, shared believes and priorities and comparable professional circumstances help to do the first step and identify common topics. That does not mean you have to be everybody’s darling to successfully build your network. To take up a clear stance usually wins more respect and interest from others than the “go with the flow” approach. The much-quoted ‘authenticity’ factor plays a key role in being remembered and valued by others. 

And as a side effect – learning to be authentic in unfamiliar surroundings helps to build the inner independence and authority you need to never feel uncomfortable again when entering this room where the event takes place and where you probably do not know anybody. You will just jump.

Read more in our next blog about networking covering the art of mastering the different levels of networking, structuring and administering your network to leverage your contacts inside and outside  your company.

Dr. Holger Karsten brings a wealth of 30 years of experience to his work as executive coach. He has been an automotive executive, managing director of a global top management consultancy and a leading investment bank as well, giving him exposure to a wide variety of cultural idiosyncrasies. His formal education includes a masters‘ degree in economics, a doctoral degree in business administration as well as a post-graduate program completed at the University of Massachusetts Business School in Amherst, Mass, USA. Holger works goal-oriented and quickly understands the relevant issues regarding personality and business, based on his longstanding management- and consulting- experience. He also applies his own clear approach in a range of corporate supervisory  and advisory board memberships.

Julia Weiss works with her executive clients to unleash their full potential in their varying roles, and/or of their work teams and organizations. Thus she enables the executive and his or her team to achieve a sophisticated and sustainable level of performance. Julia is a certified executive and team coach, moderator and speaker with a focus of sales performance and change management. 
She works as a Partner of Leadership Choices, an international consultancy focusing on leadership development at Top Management level. Julia’s experience is based on more than 15 years of work in different senior management settings – as a strategy consultant and as managing director - sales in the media industry. 

www.leadership-choices.com

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