For many, when they hear the word “networking,” their initial response is negative. Thoughts immediately go to uncomfortable, forced events where they’ve been told to “come back with at least 3 business cards.” The reality is we all network every day without even realizing it.
It’s networking when:
- You ask your doctor to recommend a specialist
- You ask other parents who they use as a babysitter
- A peer reaches out to you to learn more about the company you work for
- A co-worker asks for your help in resolving an issue
Take a moment and think about who you would reach out to if:
- You were contemplating a career change
- You received difficult feedback and wanted help putting it into context
- You had to quickly address an eldercare/childcare issue
- You received a significant promotion and wanted guidance on stepping into the new role
Hopefully you were able to identify several names for each of these issues. The names that you listed are likely individuals that you have built a relationship with over a period of time, who either have experience dealing with the issue you are facing or have access to those that do.
When you reach out to someone to network with them, in essence you are telling them that you trust their opinion; and the same holds true when others reach out to you. That trust grows through incremental exchanges – “let’s grab a cup of coffee and get to know one another,” to “I have a quick question I’d like to ask you,” to “I’d really appreciate your insight into this issue I’m facing.” It is an honor to be asked.
So, next time you think of networking as dreadful, and uncomfortable, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be that way. A network is built over time, and sometimes that uncomfortable moment can turn into a mutually beneficial long-lasting relationship.