Let’s put the humanity back into connecting with people! We are not programmed robots with pull strings in our backs. We are not soulless creatures wandering the planet completely dead inside and devoid of all feeling. So why is it that sometimes networking makes us feel that way? I’ll tell you why….
We take all the heart out of connecting with people when it comes to networking and our careers. Where's the meaning? It's simply become a process we dread. Kind of like getting a colonoscopy. Listen, we’re all just people. Most of us are a bit of a mess. Most of us don’t know what the heck we’re doing. Most of us are just trying our best to be good humans, do the right thing, and have a bit of fun while we do it. So, if at the core, we’re all playing for the same team, let’s call it “Team Humanity”, then why all the pre-tence and fakery and pretend?
Why do we have to put on a mask, wear a costume, rehearse a script, and stand around in places acting stiff and formal to prove that we are worthwhile, capable, beings with something to offer? Why not just put us all in a boxing ring and let us duke it out for a job? It’d be a lot more fun—maybe even less bloody.
Hey. I’m not here to tell you to stop doing anything that is working for you. Schmooze on if it works. Pitch on if you love it, you’re good at it and you have success with it or even if you don’t but you see the value in continuing to try to get better. Keep on having coffees with strangers if that feels natural and you’ve met lots of awesome people and turned them into friends.
There are many, many different ways to “network” besides:
Schmoozing with a room full of strangers
Emailing strangers to go for coffee
Pitching people in elevators
Wearing uncomfortable clothing
Sending sales pitches to strangers on LinkedIn
I’m not going to pretend that there's only one way. I don’t have a 10 step networking hack for you but I might be talking to you if doing any of the above isn’t getting you the results you want, doesn’t feel like you, or simply feels terrible.
Let me also say I’m not a big advocate of avoiding things just because they feel terrible. Feeling terrible is not always a reason not to do something. Sometimes you really do have to suck it up and just do the thing you really don’t want to do. Sometimes this is what it takes to get better at something, get through something or get something you want.
So, I’m not here to tell you not to network or to give you permission to only apply to jobs online or tell you that if you just believe in yourself and always do your best, you’ll always get what you want without taking action, taking a risk, or being uncomfortable. I’m not telling you any of that.
Some have said we are becoming a society full of people who are so afraid of discomfort we have become conditioned to avoid it at all cost. This made me think about the concept of Hygge (the Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfort). I love this concept...really, who wouldn't? Sure, sign me up for some hot cocoa by candlelight after a long day. That's just it though, I think it's the contrast that feels good. I think a meaningful life requires the contrast. A little stress, a little bitter, a little dark so we can appreciate some ease, the sweet, and the light. I think we thrive with the full range.
I like to think about networking the way I think about the weather. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothes. Just like getting outside in winter can be beneficial to our health and wellness (fresh air, crisp sunshine etc.), it can also allow us to further appreciate the coziness of a warm fire when we do come back inside. But this doesn’t mean we can’t try to make our time outdoors more enjoyable even if it’s still cold, or rainy.
So, lets change our approach to some of the less fun aspects of career change and instead of suffering through them the way we would a cold winter day while wearing only a spring jacket, figure out how we can make the most out of where we’re at and enjoy the darn journey.
So, no need to only struggle and no need to only avoid.
After all, there’s almost always a little magic in the struggle and avoiding things usually doesn’t make them go away.
So this pretty much sums up my approach to everything.
Here’s to finding the magic in the struggle. To pushing ourselves but with kindness and compassion and with some consideration to how we can make the hard thing even a little less painful or a bit more manageable.
So, on this note:
Can we try to view networking as a little less about taking and more about sharing? Focus on developing trust with others so we can help each other move toward goals? It's about regularly engaging with others and finding opportunities to help them as a way of strengthening the relationship. By doing this, you build up a foundation of mutual respect so others naturally want to help you achieve your goals. Let's network as a way to share our perspective, and ideas and to ask others for theirs.
Think of all the ways you can nudge yourself in front of others-- participate in that a book club, attend your friend's Birthday party, talk to one person at your kid's hockey game, host a lunch or dinner party, partner up with someone and find ways to advocate, support, and recommend each other.
When you're looking to make a career change or are in the midst of a job search, what can you do to make your world just a little bit bigger in a way that makes sense to you? Start there.
Good luck on your journey!