Did that catch your attention and prompt you to read on? I hope so. In my work, I continue to see people cringe when told that they MUST network if they want to conduct a successful job search. The rational reasons – unadvertised openings, hiring based on trust or simply being in the right spot at the right time – all make sense in a conversation. Reaching out to strangers, especially when it comes to the third-tier circle, is what seems to irritate and is difficult to practice in a disciplined manner for most people. Being told that networking is really NOT about asking for a job just plain frustrates people because when you feel “less than” as can happen in a transition, it is hard to focus on the serendipity of “just building a relationship”.
What if we looked at networking from a purely selfish and self-serving perspective? Here are three reasons why I believe that networking is really about you and your interests:
Reason # 1:
In a fast-paced world where interruptions are the norm, you allow the person you are networking with a legitimate reason to pause and reflect. In doing so, you have the opportunity to pause and reflect too and slow down your frenetic job search activity. A networking conversation allows you to pay attention to your entire being – your presence as well as how you engage in conversations. What a great hands-on activity for your interview preparation arsenal! Most offers come because you establish credibility and likeability via conversations. Go ahead, be “me-focused” as you prepare for networking because I believe when you do, your behavior during networking will be “other-focused.” Make this ‘me-focus’ work:
- You can practice sharing your career focus or 90-sec-pitch and receive targeted feedback.
- You can practice behaviors that help you engage and make people curious about your talents.
- You can learn what questions, situations or personality types make you uncomfortable and help you be proactive as you work out solutions.
As Rainer Maria Rilke said:
Think of the world you carry within yourself.
Reason # 2:
A transition can bring out your worst habits. It can encourage you to rediscover habits that never served you well and those that you thought you had given up. Unconsciously, negative behaviors start showing up, some quietly and some loudly and aggressively. A networking conversation, especially with your first-tier contacts allows you to address these in a practical and positive manner. Subsequently, your second-and third tier conversations start quietly reinforcing and rebuilding your confidence – starts slow and the build-up is a fireworks display – full of applause and praise! Make this ‘me-focus’ work:
- You can release endorphins in your body that will help bolster positivity when you need it most – a kind word, a brilliant idea or offer to connect you DOES and WILL improve your attitude.
- You can lean of someone’s faith, resiliency and knowledge when your self-trust is at its lowest.
- You can choose connectivity vs. isolation.
The poem by John Donne reminds us:
No man (or woman) is an island.
Reason # 3:
Central truth in life – we don’t know what we don’t know (yet). At no time is this statement as critical as when someone is in transition – whether making a career change, exploring career ideas or advancing in the same field. The role of research is paramount in any job search. What takes online or traditional paper research into a supercharged activity is the human element – someone who can confirm, deny, disagree or add to what you are learning about your career exploration and strategy. A networking conversation alerts you, gets you ready and helps you become that remarkable person to whom everyone wants to offer opportunities. So, isn’t this chance to connect all about you and for you? Make this ‘me-focus’ work:
- You can challenge your certainty and recognize your blind-spots by inviting people to question your ideas, assumptions and sometimes prejudices
- You can recognize limits and gaps in your preparation, make course adjustments and connect the dots faster and with greater resiliency
- You can remember with greater clarity your joyful skills, past successes and future promise- things easy to forget in a transition – stories that made you successful in the past have patterns and colors that will make you successful in the future—a networking conversation can remind you where to look
I agree with Tuli Kupferberg who said:
When old patterns break, new ideas emerge.
So, what do you think? Would you agree that networking is really about you? Would that be a viable reason to build relationships for life? I certainly hope so.