They say that networking is the most important factor in any business or career pursuit…and they’re right.
Generally speaking, we do more to help and support those we have deeper relationships with. And, networking skills can help us build and deepen our relationships with others so we can have a helping hand in our corner whenever we need it.
So, first, you need to understand that there is an abundance of opportunities out there. But, if you find yourself gravitating towards prioritizing other things (and, as a result, avoiding networking), it’s possible that that’s because you don’t know how to network effectively.
And, who can blame you? They don’t exactly teach how to build collaborative, natural relationships with total strangers as a subject in school. And, your typical Google search will bring you more tips than actual strategies. (Or, simply leave you feeling like you can survive without networking.)
Now, in all honesty, you can get by without networking. But, you’ll be missing out on a wealth of opportunities that go straight to the people who take the time to learn the art of this relationship game.
So, if you were to take ten weeks and do nothing but learn the art of networking, what would you have to do each week to become a charming, natural connector by the end?
Let’s find out.
And, by the way, if you’d like to extend this to 10 months or longer, that’s completely OK too.
*Note: There will be free resources and guides linked in this article to help give you some potential next steps that you can take for each day. So, I don’t get anything out of giving you these recommendations except being the guy who introduced you to some cool new content from other awesome professionals.
Week 1: Mindsets
All behavior stems from and starts with the mind. So, improve your mind and you’ll improve your behavior.
Mindset shifts don’t happen overnight, but learning the mindsets you need to shift into can. It’s only a question of determining what mindsets you need, and then making a habit of internalizing those mindsets while weeding out the rest you don’t need (the mindsets that don’t add value to your life).
What To Do
The first thing to do for this week is develop a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is the idea that you can improve your skills and that you have the ability to, well, grow.
There are people in this world who believe that their skills are set in stone and unchangeable. They believe that however good or bad they are at something remains set in stone forever and there’s nothing they can do about it. This attitude is called a “fixed mindset.”
You can probably see now why we started with “mindsets” for Week 1. If you believe that you can’t improve your networking skills, you’re wasting your time reading here.
It’s typically the fixed mindset people who don’t make it very far in life or reach new heights. But, that also means that if you’re willing to adopt a growth mindset, you can soar past the competition who thinks their abilities are fixed at birth.
*Your Recommended Reading: Mindset: Carol Dweck Teaches Growth Mindset
Week 2: Communication Skills
Next, you need the verbal and nonverbal communication skills that allow you to carry yourself as a high-power (“high in power”) individual.
The idea of “faking it until you make it” is a very real strategy that, when applied correctly, can do wonders for your life and goals.
Having the communication skills to present yourself to the world as an individual who has some power and has the potential to gain more power will influence people to want to be around you more — so long as you mix that “high-power behavior” with warmth and friendliness.
What To Do
You can learn a thing or two about communication skills for common practices such as assertiveness from the recommended reading below.
But, what you also really want to focus on here is your listening skills, your levels of dominance compared to your levels of submissiveness, your conflict resolution skills, and general presentation skills (such as being able to deliver information with confidence — sometimes referred to as “exec” skills).
*Your Recommended Reading: “People Skills by Robert Bolton”
Week 3: Basic Social Skills
Without oversimplifying, if the “communication week” was focused more on how you say something, today you’ll be focused on what exactly to say.
Your ability to hold a conversation, build rapport, move to deeper topics, make good small talk, and gracefully end conversations are all basic social skills one needs to “crawl before they walk” into the more advanced methods, strategies, and techniques you’ll learn later on.
What To Do
Your first step will be to remove any cognitive distortions you may have.
Here’s a simple definition for you on what cognitive distortions are if you’re unfamiliar with them:
Simple Definition: “Cognitive distortions are habitual ways of thinking that are often inaccurate and negatively biased.” They’re distorted ways of viewing the world that are negative or irrational patterns of thinking.
*Your Recommended Reading: Cognitive Distortions Worksheet
After addressing your negative thought patterns, you’ll practice conversing with your “goals of socialization” in mind. One goal, for example, would be to have an interaction that’s rewarding for everyone involved.
During this time, also practice getting clear on your preferred approach to socialization (which is simply identifying how exactly you want to conversate).
*Your Recommended Reading: Some Popular Overall Approaches For Making Conversation
Week 4: Advanced Social Skills
For the focus on networking, this comes down to charm.
Charm is comprised of three key elements: highly developed social skills, high personal value or status, and a high level of comfort.
What To Do
This is where you’ll begin gaining mastery in the conversational style you chose on Week 3.
More than that though, this is also where you’ll start to learn how to assess the way power works in any environment you’re in…and how you can influence that power to flow toward you.
Curious how this works? Feel free to check out the recommended reading below.
*Your Recommended Reading: Social Power Dynamics: Overview
Week 5: Advanced Social Strategies
This week’s work will come down to applying your advanced social skills to the formation of strategies that lead to the outcome you want.
When you find yourself in conversations with contacts and you’re not sure how to go about negotiating for what you want in those conversations, this is the week that will prepare you with the social strategies to know what to do before you get into those situations.
Notice, this isn’t about learning fancy negotiation tactics to get what you want. It’s more about applying what you learned on your advanced social skills week to the formation of a process that will move you toward the outcome you want.
For example, this can be a focus on having an overarching strategy to make sure the interaction is moving forward towards a specific goal because, ideally, you should have some specific objectives you move towards and aren’t just talking.
This strategy can look like a simple step-by-step plan of action such as:
- Exchange ideas with contact without coming across as a taker
- Exchange ideas with contact, and deepen the relationship / move to a more personal tone
- Exchange ideas with contact, and avoid breaking rapport
- Go for the first 3, but if it doesn’t work out, then assertively ask for ways that I can give value in case of a damaged relationship
*Your Recommended Reading: The 4 Fundamental Strategies of Power
What To Do
Weeks 4 and 5 were more about studying friendships, social groups, group leadership, and social power.
This week is more about studying social intelligence, emotional intelligence, and doing your own analyses and exercises of social strategies to become a social master.
*Your Recommended Reading: What’s in it for them guys (WIIFT), never forget it!
Week 6: Networking Strategies
Now, we’re getting into the meat and potatoes of why you’re here.
An example of what this week is about is when you have that hard-to-reach contact in mind that you want to connect with. This stage will help you understand what routes may be less than ideal, and which approaches may be worth trying out.
What To Do
Get started learning and trying out different networking strategies and approaches.
As you discover what works for you and what doesn’t, save the best and weed out the rest.
*Your Recommended Reading: Your Free Chapter of The Clever Connector
Week 7: Basic Influence and Persuasion Skills
Here’s a simple definition to distinguish between the two:
Simple Definition: “Persuasion is the act of reasoning with someone so that they would believe or do something. Influence, on the other hand, is the ability to affect the manner of thinking of another.”
And, you’ll need both to fully take part in the success this world has to offer you through networking.
What To Do
Take this day to improve how you go about persuading others to join you, work with you, support you, or follow you.
*Your Recommended Reading: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive
Week 8: Advanced Influence and Persuasion Skills
The advanced influence and persuasion skills are aimed at getting you equipped for the more advanced social negotiations in life.
What To Do
Kick it up a notch.
If a part of your Week 7 was only reading, try applying what you’ve learned. Try persuading someone to do something (bonus points if it’s someone you hardly know).
The success here isn’t in actually in the outcome of having persuaded them. You can always improve those skills later on with practice.
The success is in going for it and doing your best. Information is useless without its application beyond being the “booksmart bookworm.” And, striving for perfection — for successfully persuading others all the time — is a fool’s errand.
Rather, strive to apply what you learn and to take pride in having simply gone for it and done your best.
*Your Recommended Reading: Methods of Persuasion
Week 9: Basic Negotiation Skills
When you’re in that networking meeting and need to negotiate a collaboration, these skills will come in handy.
And, it’s these very same skills that can help you get the meeting in the first place.
What To Do
There’s a saying that “everything in life is a negotiation.” And, I agree.
Even in an email where you’re networking, you’re oftentimes negotiating for a deeper relationship. Perhaps that could be negotiating for them to agree to hop on a phone call with you so you can take the relationship to a more personal level, away from being strangers.
Regardless of what you use it for, negotiation skills are an absolute must for all of the unique situations life throws at you, including in your networking journey.
*Your Recommended Reading: Negotiation Genius
Week 10: Advanced Negotiation Skills
Once again, as you book meetings with people who are higher and higher status, the negotiations may get harder and harder.
And, that’s where more advanced negotiation skills kicks in.
What To Do
The following recommended reading isn’t so much advanced in terms of the negotiation skills it shares. But, it does use advanced psychology to develop and share its negotiation strategy for the best chance of a positive outcome. And, the author walks you through it from beginning to finish, A to Z.
Feel free to use this to deal with difficult negotiators, or to simply refine your skills further. (Sometimes it’s that slight 1% of added skill that makes the difference between a successful collaboration and a failed agreement.)
*Your Recommended Reading: Negotiation Tactics by Nick Kolenda
Why are networking skills important? It’s because they’re what we use to do more than survive. You can choose to live a life similar to those who know nothing about networking and, therefore, rarely (if ever) connect with powerful people. Or, you can choose to live a life similar to those who have mastered the art of networking and can connect with the high-status elites many only dream of getting to talk to.
And I know — some of these ideas and concepts may be new to you (especially if you took a look inside any of the recommended readings), but practicing new mindsets, communication skills, social skills, and skills for reaching a positive, win-win collaboration is a sound form of networking training!
For each of the categories of study for each of the weeks above, you may be able to pull off this 10-week program in less time if you only focus on the 20 percent of information that will produce the 80 percent of results you’re looking for.
Still, when you follow this roadmap for developing effective networking skills, you may, of course, run into trouble getting these ideas down in time anyway. And, if that’s the case for you, you’re more than welcome to extend it to 10 months or longer if need be. (It took me years to get to where I am today!)
On the other hand, if you don’t have the option of following this program at all (life can get super hectic for any of us sometimes), no worries, you can always read the articles here to quickly develop your networking intelligence (NI).