What's stopping you from expanding your network? Kevin Donlin gives advice on how to put aside the old excuses and overcome common obstacles.
Networking to find a job is like yard work or exercise: If you really want to avoid it, any excuse will do.
Some of the most frequent excuses I hear from job seekers about why they're not networking effectively are "I'm too shy," "I'm too busy," and "I really don't need any help." (Show of hands anyone?)
But if you're mired in a prolonged job search, maybe it's time to rethink your networking strategy and confront those excuses head on.
If so, here are three common networking excuses – and solutions that can help you today ...
Excuse #1: "I'm too shy to network."
Solution: Take heart – so are most other people!
"It's a myth that you have to be an extrovert to network. It's not about personality at all. Networking is simply a skill," says Donna Fisher, author of "Power Networking: 59 Secrets for Personal & Professional Success."
One answer is to focus your attention on others and how you can help them, because doing so automatically makes you less self-conscious. "Once you realize that others feel awkward, too, you're going to feel more natural, network better and gather valuable information," says Fisher, who confesses to being somewhat shy herself.
Yet, even an introvert can start a good conversation. All you have to do is let the other person talk about themselves. Fisher suggests these openings the next time you find yourself at a networking function:
* "How did you get involved with the ____ Club?"
* "Can you tell me a little bit about this organization?"
* "What made you decide to go into your line of work?"
Excuse #2: "I'm too busy to network."
Solution: Rethink what "busy" really means.
I submit that you can find time to do anything, if you find the right motivation first.
If I put a gun to your head and said, "Network tonight, or else," you would skip dinner, head to the local Rotary Club and be networking like a senator.
You can find the motivation – and time – to network when you realize that your life is at stake here. Literally. Because time is life. And if you have no job, or dislike your current work from 9-5 every day, those unhappy hours of your life are gone forever.
I think most folks lose their motivation to network because they feel pressured to find the perfect job lead today or meet 50 people tonight. But you don't need to move mountains every day to network effectively.
According to the book, "1,001 Ways to Market Your Services," by Rick Crandall, a Stanford study found that "small increases in the size of your network can double your odds of success. If your existing networking is not producing much in the way of referrals, try to add 10% in high-quality contacts. They can double your results."
So, if you know 250 people by name, a 10% increase in your network would mean 25 new contacts. Regardless of your number, the key is to take small steps. Meeting just one new person a day will put 30 new names in your network this month, and will likely double your number of active job leads. Are you too busy for that?
Excuse #3: "I really don't need to network."
Solution: Why struggle when others succeed so easily?
According to Donna Fisher, the "Lone Ranger Mentality" can hamper your networking and your job search. Call it an occupational hazard of growing up in America. "It can be automatic to think, 'I'll figure this out on my own,' instead of 'Who do I know who's already done this and can help me get it done faster?'" says Fisher.
You may think you can go it alone, but why? You can gain access to years of knowledge and shave weeks off your job search simply by asking the people you know for help.
But keep this in mind: Everyone keeps score. If you borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor, they will remember. If you call your brother at 3 am to ask for jumper cables, he will remember.
And if you ask networking contacts for job leads, they will remember. So be sure to pay them back by giving freely of your time, knowledge and talents in return.
Why not put some "karmic cash" in your networking account and start giving to the people in your network today?