Okay, we're living in the age of social networking. And okay, some creatives have built entire careers around their mass followings on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (although probably fewer than you think).
But for most of us, face-to-face networking remains the most likely way we'll get a better job or more freelance clients. Pressing the flesh and making small talk doesn't come naturally to many of us, though. Even at specifically creative events, it's not unusual to develop sweaty palms at the thought of introducing ourselves to total strangers and pitching our services as professionals.
But the good news is, you don't need to be a silver-tongued charmer or massive extrovert to benefit from real-life networking. These 10 books all offer useful advice and practical tips to help you make the most out of meeting people, and boost your career in the process.
1. The Pocket Guide for Nervous Networkers by Ash Mashhadi
If you’re nervous about networking and dread going to events, this book is for you. Specifically targeted at those who go weak at the knees when forced to interact with strangers, it's packed full of advice on how to start conversations, prepare for meeting people, spot who to talk to and who to avoid, and follow up new connections.
2. The Fine Art Of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation in Any Situation by Debra Fine
Get tongue-tied when trying to forge useful contacts? In this book, communication expert Debra Fine sets out a series of achievable techniques and strategies that anyone can use to make small talk, anywhere. With practical advice and conversation 'cheat sheets', you’ll learn how to start a conversation even when you think you have nothing to say; avoid awkward pauses and lengthy silences; and adopt listening skills that will make you a better conversationalist.
3. I Love Networking: A Story About Finding Your Inner Networker by Ivan Misner and C. G. Cooper
This might look like a standard business advice book, but it’s actually a short novel. It tells the story of a man called Ken and his transformation from avoiding networking at all costs to making it a pillar of his business. You can experience the lessons he learns yourself by following the practice sessions at the end of every chapter.
4. The Network Effect by Tony Newton and Judith Perle
This book walks you through everything you need to know about connecting with other people for business. It’s an extension of the interactive workshops the authors have been running for business schools, companies and other organisations since 2001, so you can be confident this is all useful, practical and relevant advice.
5. Click: Ten Truths for Building Extraordinary Relationships by George C Fraser
Networking isn’t an end in itself but should be the start of a series of deeper, mutually beneficial relationships. In this book, popular speaker and workshop leader George C Fraser shares his most fundamental advice on forging lasting and fruitful relationships to boost your career and opportunities.
6. Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Good Job by Orville Pierson
In most cases, networking is the best way to find your dream job. But you can’t suddenly build a network out of thin air the moment you start looking for employment; it’s something you need to evolve over time. This book explains how to use a small network to reach dozens of insiders and decision-makers; get the right message to the right people; and create a project plan to organise your networking efforts.
7. The Skinny on Networking: Maximising the Power of Numbers by Jim Randel
This quick but comprehensive read explains the basics of social networking for career improvement and features lots of advice from successful business people about how they’ve used these principles in practice. Storyboards and stick figures help to get the author’s points across quickly and effectively.
8. Winning with People: Discover the People Principles that Work for You Every Time by John C Maxwell
Here’s a sentence that sums up what successful networking is all about: 'People are only interested in people who are interested in them.' This forms the starting point for the author to offer 25 essential principles for fostering interpersonal relationships that can help you develop your career and business.
9. Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need by Harvey Mackay
This book was written way back in 1999, but the core of its advice is still true today. The author draws on his own success in business to show you, step by step, how to get to know the people you need to; how to keep relationships up-to-date and alive, and how to ask for what you need when you need it.
10. Stop Networking! Relationship Building, Meeting New People and Connecting with Authenticity by Mike Fishbein
This book explains how to become better at meeting people who can be helpful to you in your career, in a concise and easily digestible manner. The provocative title is aimed at distinguishing genuine relationship-building from crude attempts at networking based on empty business card swapping that is ultimately pointless. Importantly, the author stresses that you can’t adopt strategies that go against who you are; and nor do you have to.