If you missed the post Networking: Who, What, When, Where and Why?, you may want to read it first! In summary, networking is your best tool to find a job and to find information that you’ll need to land a job. Even if you realize that networking is important, it can still be intimidating…
Obstacles to Networking
I don’t like to ask for help…
Many ask me, “Isn’t this about “using” people?”
Networking is not about using people; it’s about plugging into the job market. When you network, you are looking for information and advice from those who know it best. Most people can and will provide helpful answers to your questions and guidance, and are only too glad to do so if asked the right way.
I’m just not an outgoing person…
That’s okay! You don’t have to change your personality type to be successful at networking. The goal is to project a confident, articulate and professional demeanor. If you prepare yourself to be confident about your goals and skills, you should be able to better project confidence and professionalism in your own way.
Role play – Practice “working a room” and chit-chatting
Prepare things to talk about in advance in social situations
Have a list of questions or topics to discuss
RESEARCH – What you need to know and who knows it?
What’s the worst thing that can happen?
Maybe you’ll encounter someone who won’t want to help you. That’s okay. Ideally, you’ll ask them if they can suggest someone else who may be able to answer some questions for you. Most of the time, you will at least be able to get a referral from someone who isn’t interested in helping! Don’t let fear or shyness get in the way of your job search.
Shy or Introverted Networkers
There are some terrific points for shy or introverted networkers on Lindsey Pollak’s blog. Lindsey is the author of Getting from College to Career. Her ideas apply to all potential networkers. The advice (above) about networking encourages shy people to act outgoing. Lindsey’s article, Why Shy People Make Great Networkers reminds these networkers of their great innate traits.
In summary, shy and introverted people ask for personal referrals, tend to be polite, are good listeners, bring a friend to networking events and leverage their on-line contacts – all great indicators of a successful networker! (Thanks, Lindsey for those timely points!)
In the U.S, contacting people you may not know for information is acceptable and expected. However, in other cultures, even the most polite networking may be considered rude and disrespectful. If your cultural assumptions prohibit networking, and you are looking for a job in the U.S., you may want to work with a trusted friend or adviser to strategize about how you can take advantage of networking. For those networking with people of various cultures, remember how cultural differences influence communication.
Stay tuned for specific, practical networking strategies in the next installment in the Networking series.