Networking is an essential part of doing business and furthering your career, but it is not something that comes naturally to many people. If you’re not comfortable in crowds, or good with small talk, carrying conversations with strangers at conferences and parties can be a challenge.
The good news is that networking is a skill that anyone can learn. Someone who is shy may find it harder to learn than someone who is naturally outgoing, but anyone can get used to talking to people, making contacts, and building lasting relationships. Here is a quick look at some of the best books on the subject of networking.
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie wrote this book in 1936, as a response to the Great Depression, but the content of the book is still relevant today. Carnegie offers advice on how to get the job they’ve always wanted, improve the job they already have, and make the best of bad situations. He also explains how to make people feel valued, instead of manipulated. Applying the principles in this book is a great way to get ahead in your career.
2. Confessions of an Introvert, by Meghan Wier
Introverts have a harder time with networking than most. In this book, Wier explains how she conquered her networking fears and became a successful networker. The examples in the book come from her own experiences, and may not apply to everyone, but there is a lot of good advice in this book. If you feel trapped by your daily routines, and find yourself making excuses to avoid networking then this title could offer you the motivation and confidence boost you need to come out of your shell.
3. Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz
Keith Ferrazzi is a master networker. Early on in life he learned that one of the things that differentiates successful people from the majority of the population is the way they use the power of relationships to help everyone, not just themselves. In Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi explains his approach to networking, including how to maintain relationships with a large contact list, how to network so that everyone wins, and how to avoid the worst fate for a networker – invisibility.
4. The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation in Any Situation, by Debora Fine
Small talk comes naturally to some people, but for the rest of us it can be a tiring and awkward way to pass the time. If you find yourself babbling and making a fool of yourself at social occasions, or spending the entire evening standing by the buffet table, then this book could help you. Fine teaches you how to start a conversation even if you don’t think you have much to say, how to avoid awkward pauses and how to calm your nerves in busy social situations.
Carrying a conversation at a networking event is just one part of building a strong network of connections. Once you have made that initial contact, you need to build on that relationship and turn that person into a valuable business connection. That is exactly what Misner explains how to do in this book. Networking Like a Pro teaches you how to follow-up on initial contacts, turn your contacts into your strongest advocates, and track your networking success.
6. Breakthrough Networking: Building Relationships that Last, by Lillian D. Bjorseth
The idea of a job for life is something that is dying out, and it is becoming increasingly normal to move from company to company every few years. This book explains how to make yourself memorable, and maintain relationships with your contacts, even if you have a fairly large network.
7. Make Your Contacts Count, by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon
One common mistake that novice business-people make is treating networking like a game of Pokemon, trying to build up the biggest Rolodex (or Outlook/Gmail contact list) they can without having any idea of why they’re talking to all these people.
A big contact list is useless if you don’t know how to work with those contacts in a mutually beneficial way. Make Your Contacts Count explains how to cultivate your contacts, avoid common networking turnoffs, and put together a plan for long-term success.
8. The 29% Solution, by Ivan Misner
Everyone knows that networking is important, but few people have mastered the art of maintaining their existing relationships while also cultivating new ones. This book is divided into 52 lessons – one per week, that help you build your networking skills.
Networking is a subject that is rarely taught in business schools, so Misner wrote this book as a self-study course to help people who need to improve their networking skills. Each week the reader is presented with a lesson, and a challenge or test. Not all tests will be relevant to your job or interests; one challenge, for example, requires writing a press release. There is a lot of valuable general information in the book, however.
9. Work the Pond, by Darcy Rezac, Judy Thomson and Gayle Hallgren-Rezac
Work The Pond offers an interesting take on networking, suggesting that you have to “kiss a lot of frogs” in order to find your “princess”. The authors of Work The Pond aim to re-define networking. Instead of looking for people who can make a difference in your life, you should focus on figuring out what you can do for other people. Darcy Rezac uses a simple seven-step approach to networking, which he believes will help readers to avoid frogs, and make quality connections more easily. Some of the advice is common sense – such as “Never leave home without business cards”, but there are some interesting strategies in there that will help to make networking more efficient, and fun too.
10. Highly Effective Networking, by Orville Pierson
The sub-title of this book is “Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job”, but this book is not just relevant to job hunters. In Highly Effective Networking, Pierson offers a fresh take on networking. Instead of a book aimed at salespeople or powerful executives, this book is aimed at people earlier in their careers. Pierson explains how to use a small network to reach a much larger group of people, and how to get comfortable talking to your direct and indirect contacts.