Even the most confident, social and outgoing among us may find the prospect of both personal and professional networking daunting at times. From an early age we’re taught “don’t talk to strangers” but when we grow up, we suddenly find ourselves thrust into situations, be it at parties or business events, where we’re expected to initiate conversation with random individuals who we’ve never seen before, don’t know and have nothing to do with.
Not only that, but we’re expected to get tangible results out of such encounters. Be it our matchmaking friend or our sales manager, they expect you to leave that party or conference with a date or a business card.
The issue here is that networking, as well as being a social skill, also counts as a career skill and the majority of us have had no formal career (or social) skills training. However, building up such skills can be an essential part of building your career, so it’s worth investing time in
yourself to learn these skills.
Good, old-fashioned, paper-not-digital books are one of a number of ways to start self-training. Here are ten of the most rated books on networking; a good mixture of classics and newer titles.
If even the word ‘networking’ fills you with dread and you just find the whole concept too contrived, this book is for you. In it, George Fraser explains he prefers the term ‘connecting’ to ‘networking’ and encourages us to be sincere. It’s not wishy-washy vagueness though-each chapter is packed with practical, ‘takeaway’ advice.
On the theme of ‘connecting’, have you ever felt like you’re just amassing contacts without forging any type of close connection with them? This book shows you how to resolve this by breaking down a number of networking techniques, illustrated by real life examples.
Here’s another book focusing on the long-term nurturing of your network. It guides you through the process from meeting new people to establishing them as close and valued contacts within your inner circle. Like many of the best career guides, Bjorseth has corporate experience herself, so she knows what she’s talking about.
Although this is by the same author, it has a slightly different objective in that it focuses more on getting to know new people than getting closer to the ones you know. Just as valid a lesson-if we never got to know anyone new, we’d never have anyone to get closer to!
Make your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success Anne Baber & Lynne Waymon
This is as interactive as a traditional book can get, with various quizzes, assessments and step-by-step plans to guide the reader through all the stages of professional networking relationships. A useful read for all, from entrepreneurs to job seekers.
Networking as part of our job search is certainly useful, but a haphazard, confused approach can render it counterproductive. This book helps untangle matters by laying out the steps for a straightforward, targeted approach. Pierson is also honest about the time and perseverance required to get the job we really want.
The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Networking Skills-and Leave a Positive Impression! Debra Fine
What about books for those of us who aren’t even comfortable with starting a conversation when it comes to networking? This one starts right from the start, even providing a list of icebreakers. There’s an accompanying cassette so all in all it’s a varied learning experience!
This is ideal if you don’t have much spare time for reading, or if you don’t enjoy reading long passages! The advice for business networkers is broken down into takeaway tips, flavoured with some real-life illustrations for variation.
This well-known classic from the 1930s is still relevant to networkers today. Networking is not only about meeting people and getting to know them, but also about treating people in the right way. Chapters like ‘Six ways to make people like you’ may sound a bit ‘high school’ and clumsy but that doesn’t totally invalidate the sentiments behind them. Let’s face it, if someone doesn’t like you, they’re not going to help you, no matter how good a networker you are.
It seems there’s a networking book out there for all of us, no matter what stage of our career-or career transition-we’re at. Books are just one useful tool in building up skills like networking. Try asking friends about their own experiences, seeking out specific training and, of course, getting out there and trying out these books’ tips for yourself. Practice makes perfect!
Related: 5 Great Ways NOT to Network.