There are two things I often hear people say when the topic of networking comes up: They say they hate networking and they say networking is a waste..

There are two things I often hear people say when the topic of networking comes up.

1. They say they hate networking. I know this is not true. It’s just that they don’t realize that networking is not a “one size fits all” activity. There’s a specific method to suit every person, even introverts. It is just a matter of learning the method that suits you best and developing a networking plan that is in sync with your personality.

2. They say networking is a waste of time and they never see results from their efforts.

I am not denying that this may be true but, if it is, there is a reason. Usually these people are just going out meeting others and trying to sell themselves or their services. These “networkers” don’t have a strategy, and they don’t give networking relationships the time and energy they need to flourish.

There is a reason this process is called net-working and not net-playing. Those who go to events randomly trying to pick up contacts without any kind of networking plan are correct, they are not getting any return on their time. People who network successfully, however, have a strategy and see it as a serious part of their job or business activities. These people are getting real results and, with every year that passes, the results get more outstanding.

I am sure you know someone, it may even be you, who applied for an internal promotion and was turned down in favor of someone bought in from outside, someone who knew some key players in the company. It is a bitter pill to swallow, but the fact of the matter is, this person, might or might not be better at the job than you – they can train. What is more important is that they have exhibited through their networking that they are a better team player than you, and being a team player is just as important as knowing the job these days.

In order to achieve real results, you need to start by being very clear about the outcomes that you want from networking and develop a clear strategy.

You might want to get a better job. Where do you hope this job will lead you? Imagine for a minute your ultimate job, the one you want to be the crown in your career. What would your résumé have to look like to get you to this point? What training would you have needed? Which positions would you have needed to have held to get you to that level? Who would you have have to have known?

You might change your mind along the way and decide on a different career direction all together, and that is fine. It will just be a matter of starting the process again. What you will gain from this process is clarity, direction, and a natural progression toward your goal.

So instead of thinking that networking is about finding someone to help you get your next job, know what your ultimate career goals are and then get to know people who will be mentors and guardians of your career, who will nurture your growth and have a vested interest in getting you to where you want to go. The jobs will present themselves and you will progress naturally up the ladder. In fact if you work to this kind of plan you will probably exceed your goals quite dramatically.

Sound daunting? I promise it is not. Once you have a clear networking strategy the process will get easier and easier.

Finally, just to turn everything upside down in closing, I would like to remind you of what all good networkers know. “Networking is all about giving first and receiving later.”

Reading back over this article, think about who you know who could benefit from your service or mentorship? …and right there you have your first networking objective.