Why aren’t you networking?

What’s your excuse? Don’t have time? Don’t know how? Or perhaps you can’t seem to work up the courage?

There are many ways that people psyche themselves out of networking, even though 80% of career opportunities are found this way.

The reality is most of us can’t afford not to network. It can lead to your next position or can make your current job easier.

Obstacle #1: I don’t know how to network!

Most people think of networking as attending “events” — such as, conferences, professional association meetings – and making “elevator pitches” and exchanging business cards.

But that’s just one way to network.

Networking, in general, is connecting with people to accomplish a goal. Getting a great cookie recipe from a co-worker, setting someone up on a blind date or getting a preschool recommendation from a neighbor are all ways of using your network.

Chances are you network everyday when you make a phone call, send an email, talk to your neighbor or invite someone out for coffee.

So if you think that you “don’t know how to network”, take a closer look at what you’re already doing in your personal life, and start applying the same concepts to your professional life. Start by making your job search known to individuals in your network so if they hear of a job opportunity, they can let you know. If no one knows that you are contemplating your next career move, how can they possibly help you?

Obstacle #2: I don’t know what to talk about

You might be imagining an awkward silence mid-conversation with someone you’ve just met. To avoid this scenario, focus on what you want and do the following 3-steps: 

  1. Ask for information
    Ask people you already know and who you think might be knowledgeable about your topic whether they have any information or suggestions.
  2. Ask for introductions
    Expand and deepen your network by asking for referrals. For example, if you’re interested in a company but don’t know anyone who works there, ask people you know if they do. If so, ask for an introduction or for them to pass your resume along.
  3. Be curious
    As you ask questions, listen carefully to the responses. See what other questions naturally arise. Let your curiosity and interest shape your next question and guide you to your next step.

To illustrate, here are a few examples:

What You Want Suggested Topics of Conversation
You want to learn more about a particular industry.
  • Ask people in that industry about their experience.
  • Ask about trends they see and why it may be useful to know about them.
  • Find out what kinds of opportunities exist for someone with your background.
You want to get a job.
  • Ask people what they like about their job or workplace.
  • If you like a particular organization, ask if they’re hiring and for what positions.
  • Ask for introductions to key people, e.g. the hiring manager of a job you’re interested in.
You want to take your career to the next level.
  • Find out what skills or expertise you need to acquire or demonstrate to be considered for a promotion.
  • Ask people for their suggestions or advice for someone in your position.

 

Obstacle #3: I don’t know the right people.

Some people are clear about what they want but don’t think their network can get them there. If this is why you’re not networking, think of “Six Degrees of Separation”. You’re may be only 6 people (or less) away from anyone you want to talk to.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Start with your family, friends and neighbors. Tell them about what you want. Ask them if they can help. And if not, ask them if they know anyone who can help.
  2. If they do know someone who may be able to help, ask for an introduction. Once you’ve been introduced, it makes it much easier to ask for advice.

Online networking is another way to expand your network. Sites like LinkedIn have several million users and allow you to present your professional profile and request introductions. Post your online resume to your LinkedIn profile to make it easier for these users to help you.

Obstacle #4: I’m uncomfortable asking people for help.

This feeling comes from thoughts such as “People are too busy and don’t want to talk with me” or “People will think I’m weak for asking for help.”

It’s important to realize that each of us – including the most successful people – got to where we are with the help of others. We are all interdependent, and it’s practically impossible to accomplish anythingcompletely alone.

As a result, most people want to help others, especially if they’re in a position to do so.

Don’t let your assumptions get in the way of finding career happiness. Go ahead and ask. More often than not, you’ll find that people enjoy sharing their experience with you.

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