The Networking Mistake Smart People Make
I’ve gotten a lot of questions around networking recently, and they are on my list to answer!
But before I dive into it, I think there’s a mistake pretty much everyone (no matter how smart you are), makes around networking at some point, and I’d like to address it.
The Networking Problem
But first, a story: I was talking to one of my high-flying private clients recently and she always impresses me. She’s smart, focused, has had innumerable highly paid and prestigious jobs, and she’s finally ready to go after her passion.
We were talking about her networking game as she goes on her career safari, and she said this: “I’d love to do it, but I don’t want to bother people.”
*Sound of brakes slamming*
How many of you in this community have thought about networking with strangers (or almost strangers) and then stopped, because you were worried about being a bother?
My guess is quite a few.
This is such a common occurrence I asked her if I could share this story and she said yes.
The Networking Solution
So here’s what I told her:
“When someone asks you for advice in a flattering and sincere way, how does it make you feel?”
She said: “It makes me feel great, I love being able to help someone.”
So I said: “Then why on earth would you assume that everyone else will feel differently when YOU ask for their advice?”
She said: “ooohhhhh.”
The point of this story
I know it’s easy to fall prey to your doubts and insecurities when you need something from someone.
But, considering how great we ALL feel when someone wants our wisdom or advice, why would you take that gift away from your network?
Now, I know there’s a fine line between being a bother and making someone feel great, and you need to be careful.
But it’s not hard to fall on the right side of that line. The most important thing to remember to keep you there? Make it about them, not about you.
Please don’t approach your cold networking connections like this: “Dear Ms. Doe, can you please look at my resume and give me advice on jobs?”
“My resume.” “Give me advice.” It’s all about you! How would you feel if a complete stranger came up to you and just started talking about them, and then wanted your help. Not very great, right?
So instead, consider this approach:
“Dear Ms. Doe,
I’ve been following your career on LinkedIn for awhile now (we are connected through Bob Smith), and I’m so impressed with how quickly you’ve assumed a leadership role in your company. It’s inspiring!
I’m contemplating a career shift later this year, and I’d love to learn more about your story and your experience with your company. Would you mind chatting with me for 20 minutes about your career? I’m happy to talk anytime at your convenience over the next week, via phone or over coffee. I’m located in San Francisco as well.
Thank you for your time,
Note all of the “yous”- “your career” “I’m impressed with how quickly you’ve assumed a leadership role” “your story.”
And more importantly, note that you aren’t asking them to do anything more than just talk to you. No resume review, no introductions. You are asking for something that’s incredibly easy for them to deliver.
Once you chat with them, then you can ask some of your pertinent questions – and more importantly, get specific help. When people feel wise, and not put-upon, they are more likely to help you.
You deserve that help!
So next time you find yourself shying away from asking a complete stranger for a connection or help – don’t. Put yourself out there and make a friendly, and sincerely flattering, request. You can do this!