When coaching job seekers, nothing fills the room more with tension than when I first mention the need for a networking strategy and methodology.
Introvert or extrovert, it makes no difference – the “networking elephant” enters the room, and the person immediately gets uncomfortable!
There are many reasons we don’t like reaching out to friends for help, or trying to create new relationships with those in our field. There’s pride, lack of confidence, fear and the misperception that networking is solely driven by ulterior motives.
But there’s also another, more specific reason. After years of talking to people about networking, I believe people simply don’t know what to say, or what they want out of the conversation. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and simply doesn’t come naturally.
“What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?”
“What if the conversation goes dead and no one has anything to say?”
“What if I look needy and stupid?!”
These are all understandable concerns as one embarks on a networking journey – and all the more reason you MUST have a plan. When I work with a client, each plan is customized to the client’s personality, their industry, and what makes them unique. From there, it’s all about practice.
I always say the more you network, the better you will become at it. I once heard a piece on NPR that supports this idea in a very unconventional way – they say that rejection is good for us! The thought is that “Rejection Therapy” gets you comfortable being outside your comfort zone. The premise of Rejection Therapy is that every day you do something you normally would not, with a high likelihood to be rejected – that’s right, on purpose!
As the NPR piece pointed out, what’s surprising is that what you thought was risky often results in no rejection at all. The article states, “Most fears aren’t real in the way you think they are. They’re just a story you tell yourself, and you can choose to stop repeating it. Choose to stop listening. Fear is a basic force that shapes our behavior.”
It continues: “This is also a tool of psychotherapy called exposure therapy. You force yourself to be exposed to exactly the thing you fear, and eventually you recognize that the thing you fear isn’t hurting you. You become desensitized. “
I always encourage my Career Coaching clients to start the networking process by just have one meeting with a friend. When the meeting doesn’t go perfectly, we talk about what we learned from it and do it again until they find themselves comfortable networking with complete strangers, free from fear.
Are your fears in control of your life and holding you back? What are those fears? If you need help with how to approach your networking fears, than check out http://www.rejectiontherapy.com. There you can purchase “game cards” that will begin holding you accountable to someone else, helping you get ahead in the game of life.