trying to network but are stuck?

07/01/2009

by anne lueneburger

We all know this: we have the best of intentions to network, but somehow we cannot motivate ourselves. It feels like a drain on our energy and we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here some food for thought that should help you take the next step and get you closer to achieving your goal:

O Be realistic: the term already spells it out, networking is work! Finding the right job takes typically more time and effort than you expect and wish for. In fact, some networking experts state that it takes more than 80 people to finally meet the person who will make you a job offer. Among other, how long it takes to “close” and move into the interviewing phase depends on how well you already know what you want to do, how close your contacts are to your target career and how well your profile and skills match your aspirations.  One way to take the ‘work’ aspect out of this process if you do not enjoy networking (and let’s face it: most of us don’t), explore how you can add a playful note to this process. Reward yourself after a networking effort with something that you enjoy doing. For example, one of my clients would reward herself with a back massage at the corner spa after every 10th outreach.

🙂

O Run from perfectionism. For most of us, reaching out to complete strangers at times can be daunting. So sometimes you may delay getting in touch and hide behind the need to “learn more” before you put yourself out there. Don’t. Most of networking is about gathering information and connecting. No one expects you to be an expert in this phase. And if this helps: most questions in networking revolve around the person you are talking with: how they got to where they are now, what they enjoy in their current job, what is challenging for them, or what perspectives they have on the industry. The more contacts you make, the more knowledgeable will you become.

O Cope with rejection. First, see if they may not be available to you but if they can recommend someone who can. If the response is still negative, move on. Learn to savor good moments. Go back to your list and remember a conversation that was particularly invigorating. Put things in perspective: your networking contact is not rejecting you, he or she may not have enough hours in the day, may worry about loosing his/her job if too much information is shared, may be going through a divorce. The list of reasons is endless, and many will have very little to do with you or your persona.

O Manage stage anxiety. If none of the above strategies put you more at ease with the networking idea, some clients of mine have used the “Pleasure Interview” exercise that was coined by my friend Daniel Porot, a well-known career expert who runs his own consulting firm out of Geneva, Switzerland. Essentially, you think of a subject that is non-work related, that intrigues you and that you know little about. You then ask people that are knowledgeable about the subject and from whom you can learn something. This can be a friend, your neighbor, the baker around the corner. It allows you to practice your networking skills with out the perceived “costs” that come with professional networking. Remember to have fun with this – if you are not having fun, you may be focusing too much on the effort rather than the reward. Have a friend observe you. Adding the playful component will be important, especially once you feel ready to network towards landing your dream job.

O People to avoid targeting when you network. Basically, anyone who could become your boss or who would be intimately involved in a future hiring process, such as a human resources manager (unless you are looking into a career in human resources – here this contact is part of your research). Also, during the pure informational networking, be careful to not network with a person who holds a position above the one you are interested in…as you risk not being able to ask questions but may find yourself being asked to provide information about yourself. And not having yet completed your research, you may be selling yourself short.

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