Networking has been consistently demonstrated as the most effective job search strategy, so why are so many people reluctant to network?
Getting Comfortable with Networking
Networking is about creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with others, particularly those in your fields of interest. As a general rule, the larger your network, the more effective your job search is likely to be.
Commonly cited barriers to effective networking
Sheer Terror! I am much too shy/introverted to do this!
- It helps to remember that networking is not primarily about you. It is about the other person. Skills like listening attentively, asking good questions ,and showing an interest in others are key. And if the idea of making cold calls day after day or attending self-proclaimed “networking events” ranks among your worst nightmares, there is no rule that says you have to network this way. Focus on creating and fostering relationships in ways that work for you, be that community involvement, referrals from friends, or talking with professors.
I don’t like schmoozing/using people – networking seems rude/aggressive to me.
- Done poorly and with the wrong attitude, networking can indeed come across as aggressive and inconsiderate. Good networking, however, is about seeking out mutually beneficial relationships. Never assume that you can “use” someone and then just move on. Show respect for your contacts’ time by doing your homework prior to any meeting. Do not push someone to do more for you than they are willing. Make sure to show your appreciation by following up with a simple thank you note or email.
I don’t like asking for help or imposing on people – won’t that seem desperate?!
- Rest assured that anyone you talk to will have received help from someone somewhere along their career path, and they will likely be quite pleased to give back a little. By asking for help you are giving others the opportunity to give and share their knowledge, wisdom and passion for their field. It can be a genuine pleasure to talk about your career path and interests with an eager listener.
- Attitude is everything. Neediness, selfishness, and desperation repel others; kindness, generosity and genuine interest in people attract.
- Instead of focusing on what you need from an interaction, relax and start really listening to the other person. Find out what makes them tick, where their passions lie. Pay attention to what their needs are, and figure out how you might be able to help them. Give first, and give often. The rest will tend to take care of itself.
- As a job seeker it is natural to feel somewhat vulnerable and powerless at times – consciously remind yourself that you have a lot to offer others, be it your time, enthusiasm, knowledge, contacts, advice, skills or a listening ear.
Remember that good networking is really about being friendly and interested in others, being an active and attentive listener, and treating people with courtesy, respect and generosity. As Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker and author, noted: “You can get everything you want in life, by helping enough other people to get what they want.”