In a gentle way you can shake the world ~ Mahatma Ghandi
After conducting hundreds of career counselling sessions, many on the topic of networking, I have made a few discoveries.
The first one is this: People hate networking.
Not one single person has expressed any form of delight when I suggest networking as a viable job search strategy.
It’s more like: Please Denise don’t make me do it, anything but that.
From my research this resistance is based around three main fears:
1) Fear of coming off as some kind of fake
2) Fear of what other people will think of you
3) Fear of not knowing what to say and ensuing awkward pauses
I totally get these fears (and if you’re in Melbourne I’ve got you covered, see below). I’m an introvert who used to dread networking to the depths of my being.
But your resistance is a problem because no matter what your career path may be, the best way to find a job is always gonna be through people you know.
This nugget of truth doesn’t come as good news to introverts. For us, facing large roomfuls of strangers is uncomfortable at the best of times, without the added pressure of having to make small talk and ‘impress’ potential employers and contacts.
If you are only interested in networking for what you stand to gain, you’re never going to feel wholly confident and at ease with that exchange. And the predominant advice to offer assistance to others first as a sort of quid pro quo is no less transactional.
So here’s what I want you to do.
And start connecting.
Don’t worry about your elevator pitch, your business cards or the dress code. I heard Susan Cain (author of Quiet) say recently that she doesn’t network anymore. Instead, she seeks out kindred spirits wherever she goes.
So next time you go to an event look for one person, not to impress or offer assistance to, but simply for the purposes of connecting at a human level. Talk about work if you want, or movies, dogs or this awesome TV show.
Free yourself from traditional forms of ‘networking’ forever.
It could be the start of a beautiful friendship, which was surely the whole point of networking to begin with.