Hate Networking? Try This!
Before you say it, I know. You hate networking. Networking really can suck sometimes. Even the most extroverted and outgoing among us feel a pang of anxiety, distaste, or resistance when it comes to the idea of milling around an event, seeking the important connections, and grasping for business cards or, even worse, trolling the internet (LinkedIn) for strangers who can help you and then trying to quickly ingratiate yourself so as to elicit a favor in your job search.
Hating Networking is a Mistake
It’s a mistake not because it is critically important to the rest of your career. It is critically important to the rest of your career, by the way. The more senior or entrepreneurial you get, the more your opportunities will depend on who you know and who knows you than on your resume or accomplishments. Having a robust cadre of friends and associates who like and want to help you is key.
But if you are anything like me, knowing that something is good for you makes no difference.
I know that hitting the snooze button on my alarm 5 times every morning makes me groggier and less enthused to start my day when I eventually do grudgingly put my feet on the floor.
But, oh! The heaven of just 10 more minutes in that sweet cocoon of blankets; I can just shortcut my shower. I can just take out the trash tonight after work instead. I can drink the crap coffee in the break room instead of stopping for a latte. I always find new and creative ways to hit that button.
And so do you sometimes! Because we do what we want in any given moment, not necessarily what we think is good for us. This is why there is so much attention to creating positive habits in the recent self-development literature. Because the only way to make sure you do something regularly is to turn it into the thing you want in those moments. We are genius at getting what we want!
So the reason not to hate networking isn’t because it’s good for you. The reason not to hate networking is because you have misunderstood what it is in the first place and you are throwing out the baby with the bath water. Let me explain.
Hate Networking? Here’s Why:
Standing around possibly trying to balance a plate of appetizers and a glass of wine while still keeping a hand free for shaking and business card collecting, wondering if you look stupid or if there is spinach from the mini-quiche in your teeth.
Trying to strike up conversations with strangers – some of whom could potentially make or break your career – without having any obvious common ground.
Asking for someone’s business card knowing that it will either end up in a useless pile in the corner of your desk or that you will soon be reaching out as a supplicant for a huge favor because you want them to help you get your next job.
Following up with those important people and then trying to worm your way to that favor: “I’d love for you to refer me for this job!” Or “Could you please help me get an interview?” knowing full well it is too soon to ask a relative stranger for something like this.
Or if you didn’t meet someone at a live event, cold reaching out to them via LinkedIn or email with the extraordinary burden of trying to prove your value AND convince them to help you in the 150 words or fewer recommended word count for such emails.