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I’ll be honest with you: I used to hate networking. I really did. It always seemed like a pointless succession of stifling small-talk, cold canapes, and woeful wine. Despite what I wrote last time, Why Networking Matters, I used to rather be, well, pretty much anywhere else. I always figured that I was weird or odd – most everyone else I saw at these events seemed to enjoy them, while I forced myself through them.
Thankfully, Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack has set me straight. It’s not that I’m not suited for networking, it’s that I’m not suited to doing it that way – I’m an introvert trying to ape an extrovert. And that just doesn’t work.
This book’s subtitle is “A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected”, and that is exactly what it is. Zack starts off by arguing that the ‘traditional’ tenets of networking aren’t wrong, but are only one way of approaching it. They are a set of advice and techniques that work well for people who are extroverted – in other words, people who are probably doing just that already!
But there is more than one way to network, and Zack sets out new principles and techniques for you to try, building on your own strengths. So, for example, she suggests that an extrovert would typically excel at a networking event, with light banter, while an introvert would impress after the event, by making thoughtful and helpful follow-ups. Both styles can work, both can be effective, but trying to follow the wrong style for you is going to be a disaster – and leave you like me, muttering that you hate networking.
The ‘right’ style for introverts is described with three simple rules, based around Pause, Process, and Pace. Networking for People Who Hate Networking uses these general principles, and shows how they can be applied to certain types of situations, ranging from networking events through business travel up to job searching. Throughout, Zack highlights ways introverts can apply their strengths to achieve impressive results.
This book absolutely isn’t for everyone – as it says in the title! – but it is a networking book which, unlike others I have read, actually seemed to be talking to me. The new techniques, and indeed the new way of looking at networking and my own abilities at it, have encouraged me to try new things, and get better at building my own personal network.
So if you’re a project manager who feels overwhelmed at networking events, who would prefer to be having an in-depth conversation rather than trifling small-talk, or who sometimes looks at social butterflies and wonders why you find it so hard, give it a try.