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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Don’t sweat it – 3 easy ways to network

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Networking is something you're already great at

Talking about networking makes me think of hit TV show "The Office" with overly enthusiastic Andy Bernard constantly introducing himself and his college affiliation: “I went to Cornell. Ever heard of it?”

Networking is often portrayed as a me-centered transaction with the sole objective to get you a job, rather than the relationship building that it really is. (Plus, people can spot the

‘I want something from you’ Bat-Signal from a mile away.)

In actuality, networking can pave the way to some of the most empowering, informative and enriching relationships you'll ever have. While gaining job leads is one scenario, networking is not about getting something. Rather, it is an act of giving, sharing, learning, growing and then paying it forward by continuing to lift while you climb.

Of all the job search workouts I share with you, I want this one to be one of the easiest and most enjoyable.

1. Begin with good energy.

What story have you created about networking?

  • Are you telling yourself that networking is easy or hard; pleasant or something you dread?

  • In your mind, are you good or bad at it? If the latter perception, could you add some kindness to this narrative?

  • What does your body feel when it hears the word, ‘networking’? Is there tension, heaviness, lightness, excitement or something else?

  • Do you feel networking is a skill that can be learned?

  • If your best friend said they love talking with you and that you’re a really interesting person, how would you feel?

Great networking is about knowing, first, that you matter and have an amazing story to share. Secondly, great networking is about building authentic relationships from a place of sincerity, curiosity, respect and enthusiasm.

You already do this in your everyday life!

You have a combination of wonderful friends, siblings, family members, relatives and neighbors you get along with, rely upon, share stories with and encourage – and, vice versa. Some of you chat up strangers with ease and I suspect many of you are the ones in your social group who people come to for advice.

It’s not the networking that unnerves people. It’s the added pressure we self-impose and the expectation that a network has to perform in a certain way, namely to get us a job and advance our career. We then convince ourselves that we must be perfectly impressive (otherwise, why would anyone want to talk to us?). If networking is difficult, our faulty logic uses this as proof that somehow, we are not worthy of our career goals and life dreams.

This is not true.

My first gentle recommendation is to go back to your highest self; take a breath, step away from that runaway train, and reframe the story. Set a new intention on building (or reinvigorating) a professional community that you enjoy, can grow with, and is filled with fascinating people you admire, respect and want to learn alongside.

Instead of seeing this as a sports competition based on performance, try viewing networking as the practice field. This is where you grow, skill-build and become your best self, alongside the camaraderie of a great team, excellent coaches and mentors – a comfortable setting where everyone wants you to succeed.

2. Build your community one person at a time.

In a world where having millions of followers is lauded, when it comes to networking I prefer to focus on quality.

I’d rather see you go at your own pace, reaching out to one person at a time than sending blanket emails to a bunch of people. The former results in conversations that can turn into lasting professional relationships, mentorships and on-the-spot inspiration.

In many colleges, the student activity handbook requires a minimum of three people (including yourself) in order to be considered a student organization. Let’s borrow that idea, and come up with three people (including yourself) who are easy to connect with.

Places to start:

  • Your alumni network (alumni are super nice and LOVE talking with students, recent grads and fellow alumni)

  • Your friends and your friends’ parents

  • Professors, TA’s, RA’s and friendly staff from your college

  • Colleagues from your current/past jobs, internships or research labs

  • People connected to your hobbies, interests, recreational/sports teams, religious activities or volunteering

  • If you have young children, think about other parent/caregiver-friends you know, as well as any recreational sport coaches, after-school/virtual activity instructors, etc.

Everyone knows someone. The people you’re considering can be in your field of interest or doing something different. The initial goal is to become comfortable talking to people about the working world; later, you can target specific industries/roles. If you’re thinking, “That’s easy! Of course, I can reach out to [fill in with the easiest person above]” then we have succeeded. The purpose is to set an attainable goal and get the ball rolling.

3. Become curious.

What would you like to learn?

At the core, networking is about personal and professional growth. This comes from being curious, open and coachable. The initial outreach is consequently easier because your Ask is an earnest question about something you’d like to know more about or discuss with someone who has specific insight.

This, in turn, lends itself to productive and enjoyable conversations on topics such as:

  • Learning more about a particular interest area or career path

  • Obtaining information on technical skills and/or education needed

  • Brainstorming next steps in your career path and/or planning a promotion strategy

  • Asking for advice or feedback on your resume from someone in the field

  • Learning about the company culture and/or how to be a competitive applicant at a particular organization

  • Gaining support, outside perspective and camaraderie as you accomplish your goals

Sometimes these curiosity conversations and networking relationships will, in fact, produce job leads and new connections. Yet, entering networking with such expectations is like planting a seed and then wondering why it does not immediately burst out of the soil. Good networking relationships take time to cultivate.

Quick note about being busy

By now, I hope you’re beginning to see that you can design your networking community in a way that is custom-fit for you, to learn, grow and contribute.

There is one more thing we haven’t talked about, which is usually on people’s minds: what to do when the people you reach out to, are unresponsive or busy.

It is possible you may encounter delays when you reach out to people. Try not to read too much into this, focusing instead on the people who respond. You never know what the other person is experiencing, which could range from heavy workload, increased childcare (and/or eldercare) responsibilities, their own uncertain job landscape, not checking LinkedIn, or something else. Give the benefit of the doubt, especially with the pandemic; be extra patient and run parallel paths with other parts of your job search and other people you reach out to.

Most importantly, be sure to thank anyone you talk to, within 24-hours by email/text depending on your shared communication dynamic.

Be inspired and inspire others

For me, the best part about networking is being inspired. The ability to have a well-rounded group of people to lean on, learn from and give back to, is priceless.

Whereas so much of a job search and work life is outside of our control, this is a chance to design a professional community comprising your own set of thought leaders, role models, brainstormers, collaborators, mentors and positive influences. Equally, I’m sure you serve as an inspiration to others, within their network, also.

Networking may not be your favorite thing to do, and that’s okay. If you can see this a way to meet some really cool people who will cheer you on, share information and help you grow... suddenly the working world starts to becomes a lot more friendly and your aspirations become a little more possible.

“Every person you meet has a lesson to teach, a story to tell and a dream to share.”

-Robin Sharma

© 2020 WORK DOT DOT. All rights reserved.


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