Today’s Member blog is from Stephanie Shackelford. Stephanie coaches students and professionals as they navigate getting into their dream college, choosing the best major, and finding their ideal career. She is the Founder and Director of Coaching for two coaching companies: Student Launch Pad for high school and college students, and Career Flight Plan for recent grads and young professionals.
I recently sent out a survey asking young professionals what the greatest obstacles were to advancing in their career.
The number one obstacle, which occurred in 89% of the survey responses, was how to network.
One trend that I’ve noticed among the clients that I coach is a distaste of networking for fear of coming off as inauthentic.
I think oftentimes young professionals, including myself, are hesitant to network because it seems so shallow and fake. Just like how many people do not enjoy networking, not many people enjoy being networked either. We’ve all experienced the sales-y networking and how uncomfortable it is, and we don’t want to be that person. But networking doesn’t have to feel that way.
Instead, we’d usually much rather build relationships. So you should approach networking from this same perspective, as relationship building.
When you approach networking from the standpoint of developing a relationship with another person, it suddenly seems less daunting and fake. You show your true character by engaging in meaningful ways with another person, such as asking about their business or connecting with them about their favorite hobby.
No one starts a friendship off by selling all the benefits of being their friend. By the time they listed out their “selling” qualities of having a great smile, a fun personality, and awesome cooking skills, you’d walk away being very disinterested in their friendship.
Yet oftentimes networking events start out this exact way with a stranger coming up to you and saying, “Let me tell you about my business and all of the value it can bring you!” By the time they finish talking, you feel like you have to then sell yourself in return.
Instead, to really make networking work for you and actually be enjoyable in the process, remember: The purpose of networking is to develop authentic relationships.
Networking both in and outside of your workplace is valuable because networking is just relationship building. You don’t need to feel concerned about what will result from networking. You won’t be able to predict how a conversation with a co-worker over coffee turns into a larger side project or how an exchange of business cards over the food table at a networking event becomes a job offer. Approach networking from the authentic perspective of getting to know the other person. Encourage others in their dreams for the future by offering a connection or emailing an article related to their interests.
Networking in these ways will allow others to trust you and find you credible. When they ask about your interests and visions for the future, they’ll already know your character, so you won’t have to sell anything. It will be a natural continuation of the conversation and the friendship.
There’s no need to dread attending your next conference, and you don’t need to be nervous to set up a lunch meeting with an executive at your company. At your next networking opportunity, change your perspective to view it as building relationships. As a result, others will see your authenticity and be interested to know more.
Interested in learning more networking tips? Do you want to know how to form networking connections that turn into career opportunities? Sign up for my free e-course, Networking Secrets to Advance Your Career, to learn the what, why, and how of networking. Click here for more information on this free offer.