I want you to be honest—what comes to mind when you hear the word “networking”? If you ask me, I used to know nothing about it. I grew up where, most of the time, analytical skills were encouraged. Nothing’s wrong with that—except for encouraging only that that interpersonal skills were already being neglected. It was as if we should be able to stand alone, without the help of others.

Networking skills can take you a long way. Don’t even underestimate them. If you’ve been thinking that networking means being totally dependent on others, you couldn’t have been more wrong.

Here are the signs to look out for in determining whether your networking skills need a little polishing.

1. You’re not getting informed.

You missed an opportunity. You’re surprised to learn about a big event in your industry, but it already took place last week, or a month ago. You don’t even know that the industry’s already booming locally.

Research shows that successful managers take 70 percent more time networking than the less successful ones. Through networking alone, they learn about information others won’t simply find on the media.

If you ridiculously miss out on plenty of opportunities in a specific trade you’re interested in—or work in—you may need to raise the bar a bit—through people.

2. You focus too much on the analytical side of your career (or life).

And you forget that you have social tasks to consider.

Yes, your job may be more valuable than you think. Unless you’re satisfied with handling your job alone without considering its potential on a bigger and much more meaningful scale, try meeting other people, at least those who are already in your industry.

Mastering your job is perfectly fine, but concluding that there’s nothing more to it, like it won’t make an impact on your community, is going to kill its purpose. And you don’t want to be that person who killed it.

3. You know you deserve it, but someone else got it (and it’s going to change their life).

Don’t blame others when this happens: Somebody else has achieved something—a promotion, a profit, or an adventurous trip—which you’ve been waiting for for so long. Be happy for the achievements and success of others.

You may be qualified to fill the job, but if that other guy has the right networking skills and knows people who respect them, then you just might lose to them easy.

If the idea of networking skills is already violating you like that, then have a good think about it. Remember, you can learn how to network. How about letting yourself be inspired by that guy instead? Perhaps make him or her the first one with whom you’ll start practicing your own networking skills. That’d be great.

4. Your skills, in general, aren’t improving.

Here’s the thing. You may manifest all the networking skills and tactics you know, but sometimes they simply might not pay off. Why? This could be the only reason—you. But don’t take that personally. Here’s why.

It may only mean that your skills, particularly trade skills, aren’t improving.

That’d be the right opportunity for you to shine.

Create an idea. Work on something nobody else has worked on before, then show other people your progress. Be better. Be inspired by people you admire. Help them, and let them help you.

When all is done, your work will talk for itself. The value you bring to the table will spread through word of mouth, and referrals will come.

If you feel you’re becoming stagnant, then go out there and sharpen the skills you already have.

The truth is this particular sign seems to run in circles. You may be asking, “Why is this even a sign when I’m already working on my networking skills?” The answer is simple: Providing value is a networking skill, and you may be missing just that.

5. You have difficulty managing your emotions.

Am I making this hard for you already?

This is not about looking for people whom you would use as an outlet for your emotional outbursts. (In any case, it’s not about it.) This is teaching yourself how to handle your emotions. You may think that managing them in front of people is faking them—it’s not. You can and should be genuine when you meet people or make new friends. Think about it as a strength. Everybody has their own struggles. But networking means you have to contain yourself—for your own personal development, and to be able to provide value for your environment.

It’s not suppressing your emotions—it’s learning to be strong.

6. You treat networking as nothing but work.

Well, this may be an obvious sign.

Or not.

I don’t talk only about job-hunting, managing a firm or owning a business. We associate networking skills with work most of the time. It’s a given, it seems.

But imagine your life without responsibilities. Don’t think about your obligations—think only about your passions.

Does that make sense?

The truth is you may love something about your current job, if not, you love everything about it. If you don’t, you should’ve been in another place.

You will seek opportunities to make yourself better, and they include those outside the world of work. Life isn’t all work. If you’ve been showing great networking skills in your workplace, apply the same skills, accordingly—to what would keep your soul alive.

7. Negative people are already consuming you.

Have you heard about the power of five? It starts with this: You are the average of the five people around you.

If those people are innately negative and are with you almost every time, consider going for the right people—make time for it. Is leaving negative people good? Yes, otherwise you’ll be one of them before you know it. If you can’t leave, I’ll say it again—make time networking with the right people.

You need positive people to share your life with. People who will appreciate and respect you. There are a lot of good men and women on Planet Earth; you simply have to reach out a bit.

8. You find it hard to handle a subordinate.

Or worse, a group of subordinates.

Networking is about your ability and patience to communicate with other people. It could be challenging with people outside your company, or those you meet by surprise. But take it as a sign if you head a particular group, your subordinates, and can’t seem to handle them according to your, and their, expectations.

If you’re in a superior position, you might forget that your networking skills also matter for the people under you. Watch out for it. Don’t be too proud of yourself if you can close deals with prominent people but fail to maintain good relationships with your subordinates.

If there’s only one part of your life that must benefit from the networking skills you learn, it’s your character—not only as some group leader, but more importantly as a person.

9. Your networking skills show only when you need help.

At the least, you should give something in return—but this is even a poor mentality if you ask me. It isn’t simply “give and take.”

Networking is about delivering value to an industry you believe in. Learning networking skills is indeed great, but think of the main reason you’re doing it. To gain something? Sure. That answer will be on the tip of anybody’s tongue. But gaining something as your primary reason for networking may not be the best motivation. Yes, you want something, but don’t keep asking for it without showing what seems to be part of an unwritten rule—value.

Don’t believe me? Try showing off those networking skills only when you’re down. It’s only a matter of time before everybody notices it.

But when you stick to your values and the common cause you’re in that place to begin with, people will remember you. They’ll look up to you. They’ll respect you. If that sense of fulfillment doesn’t weigh more than what you actually ask for, then I suggest you go back to your life’s purpose.

10. You feel like success is still far beyond your reach.

Success, of course, comes with a lot of factors.

You may be competent and have outstanding credentials for the job, but feel that the benefits you’re reaping aren’t fair enough. They don’t balance your efforts. If you think success is still out of your reach, after a long time now, consider that you may not be talking or keeping in touch with the right people. Perhaps you already have a nice little circle of connections or acquaintances, but are you sure they truly help you realize your visions?

Hone your networking skills. What if you aren’t achieving success only because you lack such skills? Remember as I said above, successful people make more time networking than the less successful ones.

Your call.

Think About It

Like many things in life, strengthening your networking skills is also about leaving your comfort zone. It’s facing your fears and anxieties, because you want to achieve that one big goal in your life no matter what. Whether you like socializing or not, you will eventually need to network—it’s only a matter of time.

Remember these signs that would call for some polishing of your networking skills. You may not even realize they’re already showing. Work on them as soon as you can. The earlier, the better. Don’t forget that this is a lifetime process.

Maybe you’re meant to be a networker after all. You only don’t know at this point. And how would you know if you don’t try?

Speak Your Mind

Are there any more signs a budding networker should watch out for? How much do you value networking? Tell us on the comments below!

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