So, you think you can dance? The choreography of networking.
Think back to the last time you were at a wedding — or any event with a dance floor. There was no shortage of well-meaning people encouraging the wallflowers, “Come on … get out on the dance floor … it’ll be fun … you’ll have a good time.”1Imagine this line the way Bruce Willis says “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs” in Die Hard.
In many ways, networking is like dancing.
In our Western culture we tend to assume that everyone can dance. But when you look at the people on the dance floor you will see a wide spectrum of skills. There will be some who are excellent dancers, with a total command of their body and the room.
At the other end of the spectrum, there will be a few who can’t dance at all and are just flailing in loose approximation to the rhythm of the music. And then there will be people who think that they are good dancers but, in all honesty, are not.
For the people who are very good at dancing, know this: they worked at it. They made a conscious decision to improve their dancing skills. The spent time off the dance floor learning and practicing. They may have even taken a dance lesson or two.
And so it is with networking. Most of us assume that networking is easy and everyone can do it. We encourage people to “get out there … go to an event … meet some people.” We promote networking events as if they will somehow transform your career, launch your startup, or land you a job. So often these events are akin to a lot of people flailing around the dance floor.
The Choreography of Networking: Figuring out the Footwork
Being good at networking, like being a good dancer, is not natural. Networking skills are social skills, and all social skills are learned. Master networkers have invested the time and effort to learn how to network in a way that is powerful and effective for them. Have you invested any effort in learning how to network? Have you spent any time on “networking lessons?”
Further, developing and maintaining professional relationships (i.e. “networking”) is a deeply personal and human endeavor. There is no one way to network — your networking style is unique to you.
The best networkers have consciously developed a style and an approach that works for them. The connections you build and maintain will be a reflection of who you are, your preferences, your style, and your ambition.
Have you taken the time to develop your own networking style?
- Check out some of the other articles on networking on the site.
- Check out Helpful: A Guide to Life, Careers, and the Art of Networking. It’s a deep dive into everything related to networking.
Originally published November 14, 2013. Revised and updated April 28, 2020.
Heather Hollick has been helping others become better leaders and craft more meaningful careers for more than 25 years. Her experience spans both business and technology, operations and organizational development. Oh, and she was born in Canada, so she can't help but be helpful. 😉