Reframing your thoughts on networking can propel you toward your personal and professional goals
Most savvy life-designers know that networking is critical to their personal and professional success. But if everyone does it and expects you to do it, why does it sometimes feel so challenging? Maybe you think that networking is inauthentic or awkward. Maybe you feel you just don’t have enough time, or it isn’t a top priority? Or maybe you’re an introvert who really doesn’t like to get out there and meet people you don’t know. Regardless of your reasons, networking as a life design tool is a must. So, let’s change how you think about it.
Reframing Your Thoughts
For those who feel like networking is one-sided or leaves the other person feeling used, here is an exercise to help you reframe your thinking.
Think about a time someone you didn’t know approached you and asked for directions.
- What did you do? You likely told them how to get where they wanted to go if you could.
- What happened next? Did they pay you or offer you something for your help, or did they simply say thank you? They likely said, “thanks,” and went on their way.
- What then? Did you feel used? Probably not! Helping others when they’re lost feels good.
Rather than seeing networking as a chore or a way of using someone, think of it like asking for directions. Most people like helping others and feel like they have expertise to share.
Now it’s time to determine what are you trying to get directions for.
How to Start Networking Effectively
Before starting your networking journey, it’s important to pick a destination. Think about your goal and determine what you need to get there. Do you need to find a business partner or are you trying to find someone who can help you answer a technical question?
Making a wish list will bring you (and those you’re networking with) a sense of clarity about the information you need, which will help you identify the kind of person are you looking for.
Once you know what you need, it’s time to map out a route. This is where your social connections come into play. Remember, these connections don’t have to be professional; your friends and family are great resources. Your existing network has more connections than you think and most of them would love to help you achieve your goals. All you need to do is ask.
Remember that you’re not asking them for a huge favor – you’re simply asking for directions.
Don’t Give Up
It can be discouraging to try something new and step out of your comfort zone without seeing immediate results. When things don’t happen right away, don’t feel disheartened. Your efforts will pay off if they are consistent and if you work to systematically improve your networking skills. Remember that you will get help eventually. You just have to keep asking.
If you feel like you’ve exhausted all of your options, you can still find someone to point you in the right direction – perhaps you’ll seek someone who can help you network more effectively!
Focus on Relationships
Another good reframe is taking networking to connecting. Focus on connecting by actively listening and demonstrating empathy and interest in your counterpart’s goals.
Networking shouldn’t end when you get what you need from a person. Instead, focus on maintaining the relationships that you forged so that they are long-lasting and meaningful. Find ways to support others using your unique skills.
Today, your social connections and professional contacts may be the most important career capital that you have. While networking can seem intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before, remember that it can be a win-win situation or as simple as asking for directions.