TRUE/FALSE: Networking is shady.
TRUE/FALSE: Networking is scary.
It came as a shock to me when I learned that many people I know perceive networking as a scary or shady activity. As I watched my colleagues engage with peers, professors, and community members I began to wonder, “Why do people associate such negativity with networking?”. Is the issue rooted in our fear of being rejected or possibly the media’s portrayal of the way to the top being a competitive game of knocking down others? I cannot say for certain where this fear comes from, however, I can say this: You are almost ALWAYS networking.
I want you to think of your average day. Imagine yourself at your job or if you’re a student picture yourself at school. Consider all of the tasks you will complete, but more importantly, think about all the people who you have come into contact with today. Networking is not scary because we do it all the time. When the average person thinks about networking they often draw up images of stiff “networking” events where everyone stands locked to the wall staring anxiously at each other like middle schoolers at a dance. You came. You did nothing. You left. And you probably didn’t get much out of it. But the reality is that we are constantly networking. Unless you work from home and don’t contact anyone beyond sending your work in or you live a life of complete isolation, you are always creating contacts.
The hardest part of networking is taking the initiative to really get to know someone. Often times, our networks are full of people who have what we want or know someone who does. It’s just a matter of asking the right questions to the right people. I found a contact at Google because I happened to mention to my mom that I was interested in learning more about the company. She informed me that I already knew a family friend whose son works there and guided me to where I could find their contact information. It was then in my hands to take hold of the opportunity to reach out to them.
Getting rejected might be the scariest part about networking. I wasn’t sure that our family friend would agree to leverage her relationship with her son to get us in contact. When I messaged her I could only hope she would. And she did. The piece to always remember is that the worst thing someone will say is, “no.” and in the grand scheme of things that is really not so bad. It just means getting right back up and trying again. I have asked many people in my life to get me in touch with one of their contacts and I have only been told no once. It wasn’t scary at all. It’s a good trait to be curious about people’s lives and how they lead them. We can learn a lot from each other that way. If you aren’t sure where to start then try asking them for an informational interview because it’s pretty easy for people to talk about themselves and they anticipate that you want to learn more about them. I believe in you so get up, get out there, and start networking!
Of Possible Interest:
- Networking 101 – Informational Interviews
- Networking Secrets for Introverts
- Networking – all of our blog posts on the topic
- Key to Networking – our Pinterest board with several articles/resources