I often hear from my coaching clients how painful networking is for them when they’re trying to look for that next job or advance their careers.
Sometimes networking is painful for them because they’re introverts and they see it as something that taxes their energy tremendously. Sometimes they feel ‘fake’ when they network—like a bad salesperson that everyone else can see cares only about pushing product.
In the 1-hour workshop I created called How to Network Without Feeling Slimy, I ask attendees to tell me what they think ‘bad networking’ looks like. They say things like:
- It’s insincere and superficial
- It’s transparent
- It’s asking for favors or a job
- It’s forced, unnatural, awkward
Fair enough, right? Then I ask them what it looks like when someone’s networking well. Their instincts are usually right on the mark. They say:
- They seem genuine
- They seem interested in other people
- They try to be helpful
- They look like they’re having fun
OK, so… If people who don’t like networking know what ‘good networking’ looks like, why don’t they do it? I think it’s because they’re focusing on networking in ways that are unhelpful.
Keep in mind these 5 things to help bring out the best networker in you:
#1 – It’s not about selling, it’s about relationships
Take the pressure off. Yes, you could look at it like you have a product to sell—You—but you don’t need to make a sale when you decide to network. It’s not about that. It’s about cultivating relationships over time.
Networking is much more about brand than about making a sale. Focus on getting to know people and having them get to know you. Let them find out what you like to do, what you’re excited by and passionate about. They may or may not have a need for your product, but they’ll be likely to think of you when they need it later or if they know someone who does.
#2 – Turn the tables: See how you can help
If you feel like you’re approaching someone to network from a position of need, that’s not a good start. You’ll feel like you’re begging, and your fellow networker will likely pick up on that and feel used.
Instead, look at it from the perspective of what you might be able to do for the person you’re networking with. If you knew more about what they do and the problems they face constantly at work, would you be able to connect them with a solution? Maybe you’re the solution, but maybe you know someone else who can provide it.
#3 – Focus on learning about others
We can inadvertently get pretty self-absorbed when we’re thinking about our career. What’s in it for me? What benefit will I get from talking to that person? Give yourself a break from that level of self-focus and goal orientation. Focus on others without self-interest. Express curiosity about what they do, why they do it, what their frustrations are.
Learning about others will give you a well-needed break from the microscope you constantly place on your career. It’ll also make others see you as a good person to talk to. And, who knows, you may end up getting something out of it for yourself, too!
#4 – Hang on to an aspect of networking that you enjoy
Even if you hate networking in general, you still can probably name one thing about networking that comes easily to you or that you might even enjoy. Maybe you like doing the research about who you’re targeting for networking. Or maybe you like learning something new about a different industry. Or maybe you like to help people or learning about what motivates them. Or maybe you like reaching goals you set for yourself—like the goal of talking to 5 new people at a networking event, for example.
Figure out what that is for you—that thing about networking that you actually like—and let it be your guide. See where it leads you in your networking.
#5 – Get yourself on a schedule
Inertia can be an effective deterrent to networking, if your dislike of networking is great enough. There’s nothing like making time to network to increase the chances that you’ll actually do it. Schedule time to be on LinkedIn warming up your existing connections. Aim for a certain number of coffees or networking events every month and don’t rest until you’ve actually scheduled them on your calendar.
Scheduling time to network isn’t a guarantee that you’ll follow through, but it’s much better than ignoring your need to network just because you dread it so much.
Keep these 5 tips in mind and notice which one ends up being most helpful to you. Happy networking!
Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achievers communicate with Purpose and get the career results they want.