Kay: Networking doesn’t have to be hard workby Andrea Kay on Dec. 25, 2008, under Edge
Let me start by saying that the last thing I want to do is trash someone else’s well-intentioned advice. But reading this tidbit in an advice column that will go unnamed, I can’t help myself. A reader had written this advice-giver to say that everyone says you need to network to find a new job, but what if you hate networking, do you have to do it? The advice-giver’s response, and I quote: “Unfortunately, you probably do.”
Unfortunately? What is so unfortunate about talking to people? What is so horrendous about holding a purposeful conversation with select people to hear their opinions and share your professional goals?
What is so indecent about learning useful information for your career like how you might transfer your talents to another industry or what trends and issues are affecting an allied industry you’re considering? What is so unfitting about tapping into the greatest source of advice and information on earth (even better than Google) – live human beings who have experience, are resourceful and yes, actually like lending a helping hand to fellow humans? It’s in our genes, after all.
Yes, you can even do it by phone. So explain, please, what is so undesirable about having folks who will gladly sit down over coffee or lunch to help you out if only you’d ask?
What’s there to hate? You talk to people all the time. They’re not going to bite your head off. When you ask for their time they may not respond immediately. Do you respond the minute someone wants something from you? Get over the fact that just because they didn’t drop everything and jump for joy to get your e-mail the first time you wrote, they reject you. Yes, that was rude on their part to ignore you once, but if you really want to talk, follow up again. If they don’t respond a third time, move on. There are millions of nicer people in the world.
Think you’re bothering them? You are if you expect them to tell you where your next job is. How are they supposed to know? That’s not networking. That’s annoying. Ask for something they can give – advice and insight to help you tweak your career. Depending on who they are, they might have worthwhile thoughts on where your particular field is headed. Based on your situation and goals, they might shed light on obstacles you’d encounter and how to overcome them. If you play your cards right, they could know organizations expanding in this area, actual openings and other people you can talk to. Is that so bad?
You’ve lost touch with people, you say? Apologize for being such an out-of-touch fool. Then promise yourself you’ll never do that again – and make sure you don’t.
Seem like too much work to contact people, follow up, prepare what to say, think of relevant questions and hold a two-way conversation? If it is too much trouble to get to know and care about other people – not just for what they can do for you but what you can do for them – you will find yourself alone in a world made up of successful people who are talking to each other – and not just when they’re in trouble. And that would be unfortunate.
These next two weeks and the beginning of the year are excellent times to casually connect with people, set up a time to chat or just open the door for future conversation and a new two-way relationship. Now tell me, why would that be such an unfortunate thing to do?
Andrea Kay is the author of “Work’s a Bitch and Then You Make It Work: 6 Steps to Go From Pissed Off to Powerful.” Send questions to her at 2692 Madison Rd., #133, Cincinnati, OH 45208; www.andreakay.com or www.lifesabitchchangecareers.com. She can be e-mailed at: andrea@)andreakay.com.