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Putting The Fun Back In Networking

Networking is one of the most important skills a person can attain to be successful... in anything. I only recently realized that people don't know how to do it. Or they are uncomfortable with it and I think to myself are you crazy? Networking has always come natural to me. As a matter of fact, I was networking even before the word or idea became popular among business professionals. Perhaps it was because when I was a kid I would sometimes go along with my Dad on a Saturday on his business route. He was a merchant wholesaler, selling fresh meat to butchers. My Dad was a natural networker in the sense that he could build rapport quickly, he always followed through on what he said he would do, and he knew how to size up an individual in an instant. If alive today, he would just look at me puzzled and say networking, hogwash, what the heck is that, what I do is just plain old-fashioned getting things done.

He's right actually, we all have to network in our lives whether it's for business or at home or at the tire store or the butcher shop or church. When we network, we do something plain and simple, we get to know people, when they know us and they like us, they're more willing to help us. And come on?we all need help from time to time. Except for today, our lives are much more complex than in the days when my dad was peddling meat to the neighborhood stores. We live in an environment that comes to us from all sides and we sometimes have a hard time keeping up. We also live in an age where things go faster, cars, computers, airplanes, the internet and we have to keep up with that too.

Networking doesn't have to be difficult. I know there are many books written on the subject and seminars that you can take and meetings you can go to. Those are all good of course, but networking is a simple process that involves a simple concept. Awareness.

Networking does require skills and developing those skills but the most important skill is simple Awareness. All the relationship and rapport building or whatever else you try won't add up to a hill of beans if you don't develop your Awareness skills. Each of these ideas are important, and they create the foundation on which to build a solid networking base, but Awareness is key.

What does it mean to be aware? Most people trot through life eyes opened and they can't see or ears cleaned and they can't hear. Awareness is a special ability, it is the subtly of life, the in-betweens so to speak. Awareness requires patience and practice. The beauty of it is, is that once developed, it naturally grows with you. Awareness means many things to many people and that is the secret. Developing a style for awareness takes years and years of practice and it's different for everybody. But you can also learn it in an instant, it only takes one moment to change your attitude about something.

For some, developing awareness is a spiritual connection, for others it's honing in on the details and developing a good sense of things, for others it's practicing memory skills, how to remember someone's name or the clothes they wore or the particular sport they like to watch. The successful Networker has awareness acumen and it's what allows one to develop in all areas of one's life. It is what gives one an edge in business and a sparkle for life. Folks who have developed this skill, as crazy as it sounds, have funerals that are largely attended, they are remembered by all the people they meet throughout their life whether it was for a simple business transaction, a major business transaction or a major health challenge. They are not remembered because of the Mercedes they drove or how large their home was, but for the way they touched other people's hearts.

These folks enjoy the simple connection with people that produce complex results. They walk with intention, share themselves, listen to others, smile and say hello. These people pay attention to what the other person is saying or doing, rather than focusing on what they want to say or do. They have developed good listening skills, they are using two ears and only one mouth.

Dale Carnegie simply puts is best by saying "Become genuinely interested in other people" it's one of the principles that the Dale Carnegie training teaches in order to get people to like you. When you use someone's name, "it's music to their ears" also says Dale Carnegie.

It is also important to understand the value of connection. Honestly one can make a connection with anyone just by using a little genuine interest. But if you want to become a successful networker, lose the ego and learn how to celebrate others. You'll come out winning everytime. Here are some quick tips to help you get started

? Smile more. Say hello to strangers, play a game with yourself on your walk into that you're going to say hello to at least three people today. After a while those people will just expect your hello and maybe they have that one piece of information you're looking for to complete your next project.

? Notice. Next time you're talking to your co-worker or spouse remember what they're wearing. See if later in the day you can recall what they have on in your own mind, blue shirt tan pants. As you get better at this you'll develop your ability to not only notice the unnoticable but you'll also exercise your memory skills.

? Ask. Don't be afraid to ask for a business card from someone you have encountered. Don't let that meeting be a fleeting moment, capture it in a business card. Make a note on the back of the card when you get to where you're going so that you remember why and when you met this person. Your chance meeting with them may come in handy one day.

? Be sincere. If you're not ready to give your 120 percent than don't.

All in all networking can be a simple game you play with yourself and when you realize that you're in the winning column more often, it'll be a fun game.

Jackie Harper is a marketing professional and personal chef. She is working on a book project and collecting stories for a different kind of cook book. If you are interested in sharing a story or learning more, please visit her website at or email her at

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