All of us have to network for most things in life. It’s how most business gets done. Many of us are very shy, introverted people who have a fear of networking – in person, by email, by phone, or in groups.
In any job or other role that you’ve had, you’ve networked. You may not know it, recognize, believe it, or see it, but you have. Think about the informal networks that exist in any type of organization: the kind that get things done faster and easier than the formal hierarchy sometimes. So, if you’re shy and hate to network, realize that you’ve already done it. And if you got what you needed, you were successful at it.
The key is not only to look for the “what did I get?”. You have to give to get. It’s a life rule and it most certainly applies to networking. Networking can’t be a one way street.
If you’re shy, networking can be extremely difficult to do. Many of us have been there and totally understand. The fear of rejection of a power disincentive to network. The fear of “using” someone is a powerful and guilt-ridden disincentive. But, these things do not have to be viewed in this way.
First, networking should take place all of the time; not just when you need something. If you ask only when you need, people will be put off and might not help. But, if you keep in regular touch with your network (weekly, monthly, quarterly) and let them know what you’re up to, how things are going, if you can be of any help to them, etc. then it’s highly unlikely that you will be viewed as someone who just gets in touch when you need something.
Second, the reality that is the most people are happy to help. It makes people feel good to be helpful and many people enjoy seeing their help pay off. They feel important. For them, there is no downside, if you respect their time and views. One key here is to be tactful about how you ask. Asking for advice goes very far. Asking for a job is a death knell to people helping you. No one wants to be put in the uncomfortable position of being asked for a job or asked to open a door to a job. Advice? No problem. People will respect that you are asking for advice and that you value them enough to ask for it. That conversation may eventually turn into a referral for a job or an introduction to another person who can be helpful, but it takes time to build that level of trust. Of course, this approach also depends on who you’re asking. If you’re asking a former supervisor for help to get a position at a company where they now work and you have a great relationship, that may be a different story and in that type of situation, it may make sense to ask if and how they may be able to help you land the role. But even here, you can still ask for advice (notice how I couched the approach – as advice).
Always be police and gracious. It goes without saying, but unfortunately needs repeating. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t follow this simple “golden rule”.
Good luck with your networking. The more you do it the easier it does become. Trust me.
Michael Trust, MPA, SPHR-CA, is a Certified Career Coach and a Certified Executive Career Coach, who helps people find their passion and fulfill their dreams as they relate to careers through his organization, Trustworthy Coaching, www.TrustworthyCoaching.com. Mr. Trust’s Coaching, Business, and Human Resources experience spans twenty years, and he has had major roles in staffing in all of his Human Resource positions. In addition, he has coached individuals at all career levels relative to their career paths, job search strategies, business strategies, and related areas. Mr. Trust is also a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF).
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