Networking: Don't Be Scared

Networking: find out why we're scared of it, and how to do it well.

By PT Staff, published on July 1, 1994 - last reviewed on August 30, 2004

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."

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.