Just like job search overall networking habits are a popular choice for New Year changes. If you want networking to work for you in terms of career advancement, job opportunities or other professional goal, then you need to manage your network with these goals in mind. Do you feel uncomfortable actually setting goals for your networking? Get over it. If you practiced these 3 limiting beliefs and behaviors last year, change your networking strategy this year:
You felt sheepish asking friends to help
The problem: You haven’t kept in touch with a lot of people outside your immediate circle, and now you don’t feel comfortable just showing up out of the blue, hat in hand, asking for help.
The fix: Don’t show up just to ask for help. Start rekindling connections now. You have the New Year as a perfect excuse to reach out, ask about their holiday, and make a genuine, non-intrusive connection. See how the relationship redevelops before you ask for anything. Don’t ask if the relationship has waned. Don’t be afraid to ask if the relationship picks up where you left off. Make this the year you don’t neglect your network.
You reached out to people but didn’t hear back
The problem: You already did the reconnecting last year. You asked for help, and you never heard back. Your network just isn’t strong.
The fix: There are a lot of reasons why networking efforts fall flat. For most of my clients, it isn’t that they did something wrong or executed something badly, but rather that they didn’t do enough. The best networking results from effective follow-up – not how you meet people, not how you ask for things, but how well you can stay connected on an ongoing basis. To this end, stop looking at your network so linearly – I did THIS; therefore THAT should happen. Networking unfolds organically with continual follow-up over time. Make this the year you follow up regularly with your network.
You don’t know the right people anyway
The problem: The network you have now is small. Or the people you know are junior just like you. Or the people you know aren’t in the industries or companies or roles you really want because you really want to change careers. You would network if you had the right network in place.
The fix: If you don’t know people in your areas of interest, meet new people – Meetups, professional associations, and conferences are all readily available, structured ways of meeting new people in a specific area. But I would caution against assuming you don’t know the right people or enough people already. You don’t know who or what people know. Your classmate from undergrad who was a dilettante then might be a VP in exactly the functional area you’re interested in now. That down-to-earth parent who makes the PTA meetings fun for you may be a CEO by day in the exact industry you’re researching. Make this the year you stop making assumptions about your network and instead ask questions and prepare to be surprised.
Networking is not about quid pro quo. But it’s also not about giving all the time and not benefiting at all. If you want this year to be different than last year, make sure you’re intentional about your networking. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be shy about follow-up. Don’t assume you don’t know the right people.