Networking: Don't Be Scared

It may be the most effective way to get a job or get ahead. Yet we wince at the mere mention of the word: networking.

Career management consultant Kay Steinkirchner would like to change that. In tackling people's psychological barriors to networking, she finds that some reel all the way back to one of the guiding principles of childhood: Don't talk to strangers.

"From day one we are acculturated not to talk to people we don't know," says Steinkirchner. Yet seeking out new contacts--another stomach-churning word--is part and parcel of networking.

People also have what Steinkirchner refers to as a "high-minded" aversion to networking. "We want to feel that it's not who we know but what we know that is important in developing our careers," she says. "Obviously what we know is important, but it's naive not to understand that we also have to network."

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Networking is also seen as a manipulative ploy to talk people into an interview. But it doesn't have to be that way. "It's like a compliment," says Steinkirchner. "It can be manipulative or sincere, depending on your intentions." Make sure whomever you contact realizes you are seeking knowledge and information and that you are not weaseling your way into an interview.

Finally, the time-tested favorite of networking avoidance: People are busy and can't be bothered. So don't bother them--know your objectives, whether you are seeking information about the industry, the company, or particular types of positions. Compile questions and don't take more than 30 minutes of their time, advises Steinkirchner.

And don't assume that those you network with are bothered by the prospect of talking to you. People enjoy being considered an expert and they just may benefit from something you have to say.

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