Three Common Networking Personas

Building a network is not about going out into the world and meeting people who will immediately hire you or hand over career opportunities. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. Rather than be of the mindset that everyone you meet should and will impact your career, view it as an ongoing process where you meet people, get to know them, assist them when you can, never knowing who will come through for you in the long run.

Three Common Networking Personas

There are three broad categories of networkers:

1. Naturals

You know those people who have contact lists longer than the Nile? IT doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a place to live, a plumber, or an exotic bird trainer; these people always seem to “know a guy” (or gal!). We call these folks naturals because meeting new people and building relationships comes easily to them. They have an inherent curiosity about others. They began doing this in childhood, long before they understood what networking even was. Naturals just enjoy being around others and, more often than not, others enjoy being in their company too.

Naturals share many characteristics aside from their large networks. They tend to be extroverts who are equally comfortable in large or small groups. Easily approachable, naturals are often quick to revive stalled conversations with their entertaining anecdotes. They are connectors who find happiness in bringing people who can help each other together. You know you’ve been in the presence of a natural networker when you walk away reenergized and with the names of five people you’ve just “got to meet”!

2. Uncomfortable Networkers

Networking does not come as easily to these people but they’ve bought into the idea and know they must network to grow their careers. They work to make meeting other people a priority. It’s a little harder for them to make interpersonal connections but they succeed by working hard at it and over time they find it’s no longer painful.

Uncomfortable networkers also have certain characteristics in common. They tend to be more introverted than natural networkers but are not necessarily shy. Uncomfortable networkers function better in small groups and favor talking one-on-one. Knowing when and how to break into conversations makes them anxious and so they sometimes just avoid introducing themselves altogether.

Early in my career I attended networking events with a particular colleague of mine. I always marveled at her ability to move graciously from one group of people to the next. Unfailingly, the day following the event, she would show up to the office with a large stack of business cards. And, she could remember some fact about every person she had met. While we were having lunch one day I made a comment about what a natural networker she was. She started laughing and practically fell out of her chair. I asked her to let me in on the joke. She said, “Have you ever noticed that I wear a turtleneck sweater at these events? I get so nervous at just the thought of having to go to networking events that I break out in hives. But I know that in order to do my job well networking has to be a part of my life. So, I’ve learned to adapt.” I will never forget that conversation. It made me realize that anyone can learn how to network effectively.

3. Selfish Networkers.

These people are annoyed by those who cannot help them. Many selfish people do become very successful, and they never acknowledge that others have contributed to their success. We all know people like this: their sole interaction is with those from which they see immediate payoff.

Successful people build networks by cultivating true, long-lasting relationships. Building solid business relationships with a “What’s in it for me?” mentality just doesn’t work. People either know and trust you, or they don’t. Because a relationship is solidified over a long period of time, networkers with purely selfish motives will eventually be found out and dismissed.

This article was written by: Anne Brown and is a modified excerpt from her book, co-authored by Thom Singer, "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Graduates" (New Year, 2010)