Seven Networking Myths: Fact or Fiction?

One of the most important career management skills you can develop is the ability to network. Unfortunately, for some, the thought of "working a room" or placing business cards into other people's hands can be downright intimidating. But networking doesn't require bold tactics to be effective. In fact, it's this perception -- and others -- that discourage many job seekers from networking in the first place.

If you let these myths deter you, you may miss out on making important professional contacts and, as a result, career advancement opportunities. Following are some common perceptions about networking. How well can you separate fact from fiction?

It's "old school." Fiction. To the contrary, there's clear evidence that networking is gaining popularity. Nearly half (48 percent) of professionals polled by Robert Half International said they're doing more professional networking now than three years ago, perhaps because workers know the vast majority of jobs are never advertised anywhere; instead they are filled through word of mouth.

You need to be an extrovert. Fiction. You don't have to be especially gregarious or outgoing to make meaningful connections in your industry. If crowds make you uncomfortable, consider creating your own networking opportunities. Invite several of your friends or co-workers to lunch and request that they bring along two other contacts. A more intimate setting may help put you at ease. If you feel shy or flustered, ask questions to shift attention away from yourself. Since most people enjoy talking about themselves, you'll have no trouble keeping the discussion rolling.

Networking is time-consuming. Fiction. Trade shows and meet-and-greet events aren't the only venues to forge new relationships. You can -- and should -- reach out to people while going about your normal routine -- waiting in line at the supermarket or pumping iron at the gym, for example. Don't miss the opportunity to make conversation with those you meet outside of professional settings; valuable contacts can come from any number of sources.

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