(originally published March 3rd, 2005)

I’m an independent businessman, and because of that, networking is essential to my business. However, if I were to tell the truth, and I always do, I’d have to say that I’m not the best partier in the world. I love meeting people, and I used to love going out to the dance club when I was younger, but I’m not the best in the world when it comes to being at a party with a lot of people I don’t know.

Yet, once I went into business, I realized that it was something else I was going to have to overcome in some fashion, because networking events are business, and if I’m going to a party where the majority doesn’t know me, once again it’s a networking opportunity.

I believe that a person has to be essentially themselves when they’re in a business environment; that is, unless you’re a jerk in real life. Then you really need to change, and drastically. For everyone else, you have to be yourself. The business me is pretty much open and myself, and I can talk with the best of them in my profession. When I was employed, if it pertained to business I did it; lead meetings, interacted with everyone whether they were employees or customers… in essence, I turned it on because it was part of the job. My friends used to wonder why I didn’t do that in other situations outside of work; probably because I didn’t have to.

One of the principles of leadership is communications; you have to be an effective communicator in the workplace, and if you make it seem effortless, people respond well. If you work for yourself, you have to find it in yourself to apply the same principles. Even if you only meet one or two people during the evening, that’s more people who know about you than before you got there, and all it takes is one person to pass your name onto someone else, and you could get business out of it.

And of course there's a leadership component to networking as well, one I admit I don't exhibit as often as I probably should. When you're confident about what you do, you're able to go up to people and talk to them as if you own the world. People often respond to that sort of thing in a positive way unless you come across as a braggart.

Once again it's something I have to work hard on doing. I don't like interrupting people. I don't like crossing into someone's space without being invited into it. What I will do is find a place, watch people for awhile, and if someone else seems as uncomfortable as I feel that's the person I'm going to approach. I feel a kindred spirit, and I then think that the two of us could come together and really make some kind of impact in our own way. When it works it feels really good; lucky for me, it works more often than it doesn't.

So, get out there and go for it; make your mark on the world and network!