Ways to Develop Networking Skills Without Feeling Sleazy or Uncomfortable


It’s a wide-known fact that networking is an important link to advancing a variety of careers, building rapport within an industry, and even landing that next job. In such a competitive market such as job hunting, networking can be a major factor in creating connections to positions that a person normally wouldn’t have access to. Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book, The Tipping Point, that through a study, 56 percent of people found their jobs through a personal connection. As the old saying goes, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.”

It’s a huge percentage, but why aren’t enough people taking actions to build their network?

It’s intimidating and it may have something to do with the negative connotation attached to networking, in the sense that it’s surrounded by images of Hollywood-types schmoozing over drinks and faking their true intentions behind their meetings. It just feels sleazy to a lot of folks.

However, there are ways to approach networking without compromising integrity and building strong, long-lasting relationships that are genuine. We’ve gathered some networking tips from experts in the field on how to approach the dreaded task and how to change your mindset about it.

How to Build the Network

Dr. Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of Business Network International dispensed some networking advice in a Business Insider interview. He stressed that like everything else in life, it’s takes practice to become an expert networker. Read books on how to network and be active in at least one of each of the following four groups:

  1. Casual contact networks (networking events or industry mixers)
  2. Knowledge networks (professional associations)
  3. Strong contact networks (groups that meet frequently specifically to build professional relationships, like those run by BNI)
  4. Online networks (professional social media services, such as LinkedIn)

LinkedIn vs. In-Person

Using an online presence such as LinkedIn is important in expanding a personal network. However, it shouldn’t be the only means to getting those connections, and additional actions are required to further those relationships.

“Every major opportunity in my career—or my personal life, for that matter—has always involved real people in real time,” said Steve Tobak, a managing partner of Invisor, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm, in an article he penned in Inc.Every single one.”

“In other words, one personal, face-to-face relationship is worth a thousand online ones. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t network with people on LinkedIn or wherever you want to spend your time. Just keep in mind that, if you never really get to know someone, that relationship isn’t likely to amount to much. So why bother?”

Be a Real Friend and Do Some Good Deeds

In networking, a real friendship is a two-way street and it takes time to build trust and confidence. “No garden can grow without water,” wrote Geri Stengel of Forbes. “Being a resource to your network is like water to your garden. When building relationships, take an interest in and be a resource to the other person…”

This can all be done through active listening and lending a hand. There will be times in your life where you will be asked by a former colleague, acquaintance or close friend to be introduced to one of your connections. “Of course you would say yes… Networking is about a personal relationship,” wrote Ramit Sethi—a best-selling author—in his book, I Will Teach You How to Be Rich. Always be in the business of giving and help others on their journey to success because they will remember you along the way.

Also, it’s important to maintain the relationships. In an interview with Inc., networking expert Keith Ferrazzi, he said, “Every free moment is a chance to E-mail or call someone.” He remembers birthdays and reaches out via phone or email in every way he can.

How Not to Be Uncomfortable Asking for Favors

Once a strong foundation for a relationship has been built, it shouldn’t be awkward to ask for favors. It should come as naturally as asking a friend for a ride to the airport, depending on where you are in the friendship. However, as Misner points out, it’s important to know where you stand in the relationship when asking for introductions or jobs and not to overstep those boundaries. Otherwise, he says it’s “spamming” people if you’re not close enough.

When trying to make new connections with people, it’s necessary to remember that you shouldn’t feel bad (in thinking you have some slimy, ulterior motive). The first goal should really be having a true and genuine interest in the person.