Networking Doesn’t Have to be a 4-Letter Word


Early in my career, networking felt like a tool in my “find a job” toolkit, something that I engaged in only when looking for a new job. As a result, networking felt like a dirty word because it was a euphemism for “asking someone for a job.” Over time I got over my distaste for networking because I started approaching it with the mindset of getting to know people and building a connection with them. In turn, after building and nurturing those connections I find myself more comfortable with tapping into my network when I need to find a new career opportunity.

Here are four tips to make networking feel less dirty:

  1. Approach networking like you would making a new friend

All relationships, including professional ones, take time. Think back to when you were in school, moved to a new city, or just met someone. They were funny/smart/stylish, and you just wanted to be friends with them. Chances are, you didn’t ask them point blank “will you be my friend?”, or “I’m looking to make new friends, are you in the market for one?”. You had to approach them softly by getting to know them, feeling them out, and seeing if there was a connection. The same goes for networking. When you meet someone in a professional setting, get to know them, see if there is a common interest, invite them to meet up later in order to slowly build your relationship.

  1. The rules of improv apply: always start with yes

Throughout your career, you will find yourself in a situation when you’re not looking for a job, but someone you know and respect reaches out to you to see if you’d be interested in learning more. Say “yes” to hearing them out. One of three things can happen, all of them are good: a) it is a job that you’re interested it, b) someone you know would be perfect for the job, c) it strengthens or maintains your relationship with that person.

  1. Be yourself

Networking is about making and building a human connection. You may enjoy fly-fishing, trains, or long distance running. Don’t be shy about mentioning what you like to do during your personal time. At the very least, it makes it easier for the other person to remember you because they can associate you with something non-work related. In turn, this may improve your professional relationship because it gives you both something non-work related to talk about. They will think of you when they hear something about your interest, which will keep you top of mind for them to stay in touch with you.

  1. Help others

Like all relationships, networking requires give and take. Be open to offering or others asking for assistance. Also, make connections between others within your network. By giving, you make yourself comfortable with tapping into your network, making it easier to ask for assistance with the time is right.

Networking can take many different shapes. It isn’t limited to stiff conversations in a hotel ballroom. It can be meeting people for coffee or lunch, a quick note on LinkedIn or Facebook, etc. The important part is that networking isn’t something that is done at specific times in your career, it should be done continuously throughout your career. If you maintain your network when you’re not looking for a job, it makes it easier to network when you are ready for a new career opportunity. And by then, networking wouldn’t be a “four letter word” but something you can do easily and comfortably.

Shivani Sharma is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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