Let’s face it, whether you are still in college or have already graduated, you must network at some point in your life. Applicants find a majority of jobs — close to 80 percent — through networking. What’s our big problem with it? It’s one of the quickest ways to shut down a room full of people.
We know that networking is good for us, yet it’s so difficult for so many of us to do. It seems like one of those things that will suck regardless of the number of times you try it. But this mindset is the very reason that we don’t get any better at it. We’re afraid of messing up and looking like failures. A lot of people can identify a company for which they’d like to work, yet aren’t willing to network with the employees — probably out of fear of coming across as silly or desperate or stupid.
This sentiment may protect your ego, but it will not get you very far in your professional or personal life. Let’s face it, everyone looks stupid at some point or another, especially when networking. Employers expect this — they were wannabe employees at some point, too. It’s important to be open to criticism. When an employer offers you advice, he or she is not being a jerk, but is legitimately just trying to help. Accepting help seems to be a struggle for many people of our generation. You may believe that you are awesome for ignoring someone’s words of wisdom, but you are likely also unemployed.
Let go of the idea that we know everything — we don’t, not even close. The beauty of networking is that you learn as you go. People want to help, so long as you allow it. Also, keep in mind that networking does not just happen when we are wearing suits. Many people have gotten jobs from simply helping somebody out at a career fair or a networking event. Imagine getting a job just because you were nice enough to help an employer set up a booth; it may sound ridiculous, but so is pretending that networking is not important. Believing that you can get a job without networking is just a way to avoid vulnerability.
Many people hate not being in control and go to great lengths to maintain the control that they have. Networking stretches our comfort zones more than we ever thought possible. Eventually, we will have to give in to vulnerability, and truthfully, all you need to do for an employer is to be yourself. Obviously, knowledge of the industry and the appropriate skills are essential, too. What’s worse: having a job you love and being uncomfortable every now and then or having a job you hate but never challenging yourself to leave your comfort zone?
If an employer shoots you down, it does not make you a failure; maybe your intro was not that good or your resume could use a little more work. This has nothing to do with you as a person — your actions and characteristics are two separate things. You can be “bad” at something without being a “bad” person. Cut yourself some slack, we have all been there. While it may feel like you are the absolute worst at networking, you’re not.
Don’t let your fleeting emotions dictate a permanent outcome. Clean off that suit and get back in the game. Networking builds character. Nothing says “I have my sh*t together” quite like walking into a room full of strangers like you own the place.
Most of us will switch our career paths several times during our adult lives. Three important words to embrace are, “I am enough.” These words will radically change the way you network and the way you live your life. By embracing this attitude, you can stop hiding and start being seen.