Nervous to Start Networking?: Debunking your Top Networking Hesitations
So often, people feel nervous to start networking. While this is a normal feeling, I’d like to make you feel more at ease so that you can reap the benefits from networking. Networking (i.e. holding informational interviews or coffee chats), can be especially helpful when you are learning about potential career paths, debating upskilling opportunities, identifying open opportunities during your job search, gaining general mentorship, and more.
- Sometimes, people feel nervous reaching out to people they know.
- Other times, people feel nervous reaching out to strangers.
- People feel judged, or less than, if they’re asking for advice from someone else.
- People feel nervous/afraid to ask others for help.
- Something else? Let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org → Would love to help unblock any fear you’re feeling.
How you should frame your mindset around networking, instead:
- The worst case scenario is that they either don’t answer, or say they don’t have time to help.
- While some people may not answer or offer help, there will be so many people who do offer their time and help. The kind people in this world will respond to you and offer you 20 minutes of their time to answer your questions. This isn’t a huge thing to ask of someone, especially if you’re clear about how they can help you.
- Most people care a lot less about you than you think. People are caught up in their own life and don’t have the time to spend worrying about yours. Remember, “no one cares.”
- You’re not less than anyone you’re learning from — for all you know, they may hate their job or have any number of personal life challenges going on. You’re simply trying to glean facts from them. Don’t assume they’re better off than you. Simply put, they are in a role, team, or organization you want to learn about, so focus on what you can gain from them, and avoid creating a false idea that you know their full life story.
- People love talking about themselves. People feel good when they can help others. Play the mentee card and focus on what you can or want to learn from them.
- Someone helped them, someone will help you, and you will help someone else. This is how the world of professional development happens.
- If you’re more uncomfortable reaching out to your network, leverage other warm networks like an alumni network.
- If you’re more uncomfortable reaching out to strangers, see above tips & guidance to gain comfort with the process, and/or leverage your personal network to make introductions for you.
Quick Tips to Make your Networking Easier & more Effective:
- Tip: Avoid all “job search” language in outreach messages; instead, focus on what you can learn from that person. Once you’re on the call, then you can see if or how they can help you further.
- Tip: Ensure you know WHY you’re reaching out to that person. If your ask is thoughtful, specific, prepared, intentional, and authentic, you will have a much better chance to resonate with someone, get a response, and reap help from that person. Include a few topic areas that you want to ask the person about, so they see that you’re prepared for a meaningful call and to spend their time wisely. Spend time with a peer, mentor, or coach if you need help clarifying your ask.
- Tip: Leverage your network’s network for introductions. Introductions make it more likely that the person will want to help, because their contact is asking them to.
- Tip: Your alumni network (which you can find on linkedin) will have tens of thousands of professionals; you can easily find the people you want to connect with there. Don’t snooze on this pool of people!
- Tip: Don’t assume you know who people know. Be open minded → Your neighbor’s cousin could be in the exact job you want.
- Tip: Try to use email over LinkedIn messenger.
- Tip: Always have a clear call to action in your emails — whether you’re asking for an introduction, or a phone call. Make it easy for them to know exactly what you need help with.
There’s a lot more to master networking like how/where to identify the right connections, how to come up with specific/creative questions to make your calls worthwhile, how to synthesize and process all the information you gain on these calls, and more. If you want to become a networking master, and realize all the benefits you can gain from it, let’s talk! Set up a free career coaching call here! Learn more about WOKEN here!
Rachel Serwetz’ early professional experience was at Goldman Sachs in Operations and at Bridgewater Associates in HR. From there, she was trained as a coach at NYU and became a certified coach through the International Coach Federation. After this, she worked in HR Research at Aon Hewitt and attained her Technology MBA at NYU Stern. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration and for the past 4 years she has been building her company, WOKEN, which is an online career exploration platform to coach professionals through the process of clarifying their ideal job and career path. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and has served as a Career Coach through the Flatiron School/WeWork, Columbia University, and Project Activate.