As most of us get older, we find it harder to get out of our comfort zone and do new things. We stop learning and growing. We stop developing ourselves and our soft skills like networking, preferring instead the comfort of complaining and blaming rather than the discomfort of trying something new.
Even in adult education, the problem shows up. As Seth Godin points out, in courses that he has developed for different platforms, his completion rate is among the highest . . . 20%! Why is the percentage in real terms so low? He believes that in situations where people run into something hard for them and there is insufficient internal or external pressure, people will go off and eat M&M’s instead of doing the hard work (personally, I prefer ice cream).
Networking falls into that category. I’m not talking about connecting with people on LinkedIn. That’s the easy part of the process. It is the real connection with someone where you build or maintain a relationship, particularly in person, that is so incredibly difficult. The excuse of time enters the picture. (I don’t have time to network. I have (work, family, friends, faith obligations). I just can’t do it!
Of course you have time. You have time to go somewhere once a month to a networking meeting, a professional group, a faith based group where you connect with people . . . wherever and treat it like an insurance policy.
An insurance policy?
Yes, insurance. the statistics on the importance of networking in career development and job hunting are clear. In an interview I did for “Job Search Radio,” the show with the second most episodes about job hunting of any podcast (my other show, “No BS Job Search Advice Radio” is the #1 show), my guest pointed out that 70% of positions are filled as a result of networking. This statistic has been known for quite a long time. However, 70% of the 70% (49%) are filled as a result of introductions to people you did not know at the beginning of your search. Almost 50%!
So let me coach you here since your discomfort about being in new situations has been stronger than what you know you should be doing. It is easier to network than you think.
Here are a few things you can do.
- Find a meeting. Meetups. Business groups. Attending your church, synagogues, mosque, meditation center . . . there are many places to network. If these aren’t enough, use Google, LinkedIn and other platforms to find a meeting.
- The next thing is NOT to arrive last minute unless you are looking for an excuse to fail. It is also NOT to run out the door. The times to network are before and after. Arriving late or running out the door is a blown opportunity and is a trick people use to rationalize whey networking does’t work. It works. You just aren’t playing by the rules of networking.
- Pretend there is no wall for you to stand next to. If you have trouble imagining that, recognize that it doesn’t need your help to stand there, nor do you. Look for a person or two who are talking and smiling and head for them. They know one another and probably have been there before. Walk over and ease into the conversation. “I have the idea that you have been here before. How long have you been involved with the group (attending)?” You can also ask the people at the sign in desk for advice as to who you should get to know.
- Smile and soften your gaze to appear friendly. It is harder to connect with someone if you look intense, angry, distracted from your day, etc.. Keep smiling as you speak and listening. Listen for something that
- Exchange business cards or contact information from the people you speak with to stay in contact. Thank them by email, text or another age appropriate medium for making your first meeting easier for you as a first timer. Continue the conversation. I don’t care how you do it but just that you do it.
Networking is pivotal for all of us but, like so many things, we only pay attention to how to do it when we have a real and pressing need. Acting that way is childish and foolish. We know better and ignore what we need like losing weight and eating right. Doing this is easy and will take less effort than losing weight, eating properly and doing high quality exercise.
It’s time to do it.
© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2017
For more advice to help you with your search, read, “The #1 Lie Employers and Recruiters Tell.“
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and business life coaching. He is the host of “Job Search Radio” and “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” both available through iTunes and Stitcher.
Are you interested in 1:1 coaching from me? Email me at[email protected] and put the word, “Coaching” in the subject line.
JobSearchCoachingHQ.com offers great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.