Forget Networking…Just Start Doing Research!
The thought of networking can strike fear into some people’s hearts, or at least leave a strong feeling of distaste. There are many reasons that people cringe at the feeling of “begging” people for help, or“selling” ourselves in the worst sense of the word.
Martha, an acquaintance and a young freelance writer and journalist, came to me for help. She was tired of freelance work and wanted to break into the world of corporate communications, but she was not having any luck sending resumes to online job postings. I tried coaching her about networking…no change. Tried again ….. no change. Finally, one day, a lightbulb seemed to go on in Martha’s eyes. She got it! Within a few months, Martha had built a small but powerful network of people in her field and landed the type of job she wanted in an organization she was happy with. What happened?
Over a glass of wine a year later, Martha shared the key to her changed mindset. What had been holding her back? Previously, she had hated what she thought networking was about: she didn’t want to be in a position of needing something OR asking people for things. She thought she was being an opportunist, a leech, a taker, a self-promoter – all of which made her cringe. Suddenly, she started seeing things differently: as a journalist, she called people every day and asked them questions, looking for information or advice. She began to see networking as simply an extension of this. Soon she had not problem calling people and asking, “Can we meet for coffee?”
Get the RIGHT MINDSET
What changed for Martha may help you change your thinking.
- Martha began to see networking as making new friends, rather than “finding someone she could get something from.”
- She thinks in terms of developing long-term relationships , as opposed to collecting piles of business cards.
- She realizes she has something to offer others. It’s a two-way street, and she has a wealth of experience that allows her to do things for others instead of taking from
Having the right mindset about building a network is critical because it’s what stops us from picking up the phone or writing an email. In fact, much networking is simply researching. We do this naturally in our personal lives when we are looking for new golf clubs, a computer, or a daycare provider. However, when it comes to our careers, it seems different. It isn’t. If you approach people with an attitude of curiosity, with the idea that you want to learn something, you will be more comfortable, and others will want to help you.
- Check out free downloadable resources, “A Networking Plan for a Year,” and “A Fast Start Networking Guide” on our website, http://www.tactfulselfpromtion.com
- Another good resource is The 20 Minute Networking Meeting by Marcia Ballinger and Nathan Perez.
First steps? Think about what you want to learn, and what questions will help you learn it, and contact two people in the next week with whom you can have an interesting conversation!