Whenever people say, "Oh, I don't network, I don't believe in it. Asking people for something? That's not for me," I remind myself that due to some judge's hang-up murder is, incredibly, a felony, and I have no desire to end up upstate, wearing orange and carbo-loading, with a celly who belongs to a Gertrude Stein Facebook private group. You may not believe in networking, kid, but like gravity, it believes in you, so instead of shaming yourself, why don't you get good at it and start, you know, achieving your professional goals?
People who don't "believe in" networking generally don't understand it. Networking, for example, is what happened last week when my bank had screwed up payment to my gym, so while the feds were resolving the issue, the (adorable) guy at the front desk, whom I usually give a free smoothie to, waived me through, without hassling me. Because I looked out for him, he looked out for me. That, in essence, is networking. So when people tell me they don't like to "beg people for favors," I roll my eyes, since last time I checked, everyone on this particular planet is connected, and while you isolate yourself, deciding you can do it all on your own, the people at the very top, they're networking. They're connecting with other people to get the opportunities they need to rule the world. (This might be a good time to think if you really do believe you can do it on your own, or if there aren't voices inside of you saying you don't deserve to achieve your goals, that you're not smart enough to achieve those goals. What's really motivating your choices.)
I can almost understand this horsesh*t when men say it -- men, historically, hate to ask for help; see Vietnam, Iraq, et. al -- but when women say it, I have to go watch some videos of kittens playing, so I don't end up twitching. Women, of course, being -- usually -- better at maintaining friendships, at nurturing friends and loved ones, at putting others first. Thus, women usually have HUGE circles of friends and acquaintances. And yet, these very same women give me side-eye, when I say, "Um, you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn, and another 1K friends on Facebook, and you tell me you've been unemployed for an year, or under-employed for two...? Have you worked through your network?"
1. Stop thinking that you're asking for something for free: Unless you think your talent, experience and intelligence are worthless, you're asking for an opportunity to help a company achieve its goals, in exchange for working your ass off. Are you telling me that the sum of your experience is worthless? If that's secretly what you think, than unfortunately I can assure you, without even looking at your resume/LinkedIn profile, that this attitude is why you can't sell. You have to believe in yourself and your gifts in order to sell. And if you won't, someone else who does believe in themselves -- and may have only a fraction of your talent, by the way -- is out there selling and getting the job you deserve.
2. Give to receive: So many people have (generously) helped me because years ago, for example, I introduced them to someone whom I thought they should know... or because I clicked "like" on endless photos of their (grubby) baby... or because I wished them Happy Birthday on Facebook... or because I invited them out for cocktails when I could tell they were having a crap day. I'm not Jesus Christ -- though I can see why you might confuse us -- but I stopped thinking that the world revolves around me and my vagina, and am trying to become a better person by helping others. So before you start officially networking, start unofficially networking by reaching out to people, being helpful, and letting them know you're thinking of them. If, for example, you have a friend whom you know is trying to break into an industry you're connected to, why not just send out an introductory email? That 45 seconds of your time can really change your life down the road when you need a favor and your friend remembers how generous you were.
3. Build good karma: Unfortunately, most people only reach out when they need help. Aww, how can I resist you always ignoring me until you need help? Oh so easily. But imagine if all along, even when you didn't need anything, you connected people, gave useful advice, and generally built good karma. Imagine. Also, when you don't need anything is when you're actually very powerful; people will want to connect. We're all monsters of vanity, so if you take a few moments out of your Candy Crush Saga-playing life to click like on someone's status update, or say, "Hey, great job!" on a regular basis, other people are going to feel all warm and fuzzy towards you. Show some interest in others so they might feel inclined to return the favor.
Speaking of acknowledging other's existence, this goes triple for people who continue to clog the Interwebs with their odious holiday email newsletters. I've received newsletters maxing out at five thousand words about some moron's fascinating (or something) life, but god forbid these scribes ask another person about themselves. Then these joyous little elves wonder, forlornly, why no one ever responds. Respond to what? You essentially just publicly masturbated about how awesome you are. What do you need the rest of us for?
I'm writing this, theoretically, for women, because it's my female clients who always say, "But Carlota, what do I have to offer?" when they have amazing resumes. Men never worry about this, by the way. Men just say, when I suggest this line of thinking to them: "Carlota! Great idea! Wow, so glad I thought of that." (As long as their checks clear, I let it slide.) But both men and women need to hear this, despite how corny it sounds: give out what you want to receive. And the more you take care of your network, the more it'll take care of you. Tell me what you think in the comments please, or if you're feeling shy, email me at email@example.com!