Oh No, Do I Have to Network?
Do you get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when you hear the advice “You need to network”? Many people seem to have a negative connotation of networking, but I think it’s built on false assumptions. What is networking anyway? The dictionary defines it as:
”a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest”
It’s pretty simple, really. Have you ever thought; I’d like to meet someone from a particular company (Google, Facebook), or someone who has studied abroad in Barcelona, started a social venture in California or hiked in Patagonia. Networking provides you with an opportunity to meet these people!
Note, the purpose and intention of networking is to build relationships with people that you want to stay connected to, not simply to get something from them. With that said, it’s much easier to be your authentic self and actually reach out to connect with others, in person or through social networks. And each time you connect with people and get a positive response, your confidence will grow as you realize that it’s not so bad, in fact it can be quite enjoyable and rewarding.
Consider this, start with those people you are most comfortable with (your family and friends!). Listen to conversations, find a topic of interest and join the discussion. Each interaction leads to finding out about others, what you have in common, personally and/or professionally. More often than not, it results in a new relationship. These are the serendipitous moments that you never imagined, that frequently end in marvelous new adventures (new friends, introductions, jobs, internships). This is networking! You’re probably already doing it.
Take a risk, join the conversation, meet new people, and learn new things. Set an easy, comfortable goal; 2 new connections at each event. Try it at school, in your classes, clubs, or better yet, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. What better way to enhance your relationships than through food and celebration of family and friends? Take advantage of the holidays, where you will be surrounded by the network you’ve already built, to make connections for your life and your career!