I most definitely fall into the camp of folks who have an intense dislike of networking. Count me squarely among those who has always thought it's "phony, self-serving, fake, inauthentic, superficial, conniving, manipulative, and useless."

Only

I had a time and project management training session on Tuesday in which the facilitator placed networking and relationship building into box II of the urgent/important grid, thus designating networking important and not urgent-one of those things that I should really spend my time on if I want to make the most of my time and my life.

Only

The facilitator advised us to think about where we want to be in five years and identify the people we need to know to get there. Because knowing the right people is how to get there.

Ugh. OK. Fine. I will try to spend more time on networking-even though it feels like pulling teeth. Without Novocain. On a high-wire. OK, so not that last one.

Then I remembered, hey, didn't ASTD Press co-publish a book by Devora Zack with Berrett-Koehler called Networking for People Who Hate Networking? Maybe I should check it out

And then I came across this blog post by Meghan Casserly at Forbes.com about the book. Hm, convergence. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something?

So, I got a copy of the book and started reading, and I am already hooked and convinced that there may be something to this thing you call networking. After conveying the common viewpoint that networking is "phony, self-serving," and so forth (see above), Zack explains why it's worth your time to bother with it. She answers the question, "What is at stake?" with "Only whatever you want to accomplish in your life. No biggie."

Sheesh, all right, all right, already. Just tell me what to do, and how to do it.

And Zack does. Explaining that the standard rules of networking don't work for everyone, she provides a new set of guidelines for introverts, the overwhelmed, and the underconnected-guidelines that play to introvert strengths.

I haven't finished the book yet, but I already love it. For one thing, if you are an introvert you may have internalized some of the common perceptions of the introverted-shy, quiet, anti-social, awkward, sedentary, uninteresting, slow, dull-which don't exactly make you feel too good about yourself. She makes you feel a whole lot better by explaining the strengths of introverts and how you can play them up to have fun networking (wow, what a concept) and get ahead. (And she doesn't do it at the expense of extroverts, who have their own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, this book is not just for introverts; it has plenty of good information for extroverts as well.)

Another benefit of the book is that she provides practical tips for different situations. One example is the platinum rule, which states, "Treat others how they want to be treated," and is a whole lot more effective than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to communicating with people. Other examples are effective ways to manage the job search, benefit from business travel, and plan your own networking events.

Finally, there is her tone. Reading the book is a blast. Her writing style is fun, funny, and insightful, enabling you to recognize your own quirks and foibles with a laugh and allowing you to own your strengths.

OK, now I want to get back to reading the book and planning my approach to world domination through networking. Oh, I meant my approach to achieving success.

The book is Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected by Devora Zack (Berrett-Koehler and ASTD Press, 2010).