If one of the new job search truths we all must learn is that our next position will come from our business network, it makes sense to build a business network. But networking, especially for people just starting to build a business network, is uncomfortable. Here’s the reasons why — and what you can do to help alleviate the discomfort.
Hey, whenever we do something new we usually have discomfort. Especially if we attach great importance to building the skill set.
The best way to overcome this newness discomfort is simple: practice. Lay out a simple process for networking — say going to your business team and getting their personal e-mail and cell phone numbers — and then go and try it. Then evaluate what went well, what could be better, and go do it again.
This simple step of improving on a process through practice will make business networking easier.
Look, we have a group of 200 people we know right now in business, whether through our current employer, our clubs or other social activities. Right now, they are all nicely categorized — this person is my coworker, this person is part of my club in my hobby, this person is the parent of my child’s classmate.
Now when we want to create a business network, we incorrectly change this categorization. We unconciously segment people out of their current “category” and try and place them into a new “business networking” category. The parent of my child’s classmate is now no longer in that category, but attempting to get shoved into the business networking category.
The way around this is to not have a separate “business networking” category for people. People are people and we know them from all aspects of our life. Can all of them help us find work? Yes, through themselves or the people they know that we don’t. Can we help all of them find work? Yes, through ourselves or the people we know that they don’t. Then all of it is a business network.
Hey, a professional network is about having people be able to help us in a time of need, whether it is solving some business problem or finding another job. When we start to purposely build a business network, it’s natural to think about how a person could help us.
But, it’s the wrong paradigm and that’s why it’s uncomfortable.
The right paradigm is to ask “how could I help this person.” When you think of how you can help others, you listen better, look for ways to provide support, and focus on the other person. Learning about another person is always fun, challenging, and engaging — exactly what you need to know the next time you are looking for some help.
I had one contact with this person and now I expect them to help me. Not so much. A business network is about relationships and relationships take time. What you think is something simple is often quite complicated and requires the person you are asking for help to put themselves and their reputation at some level of risk.
Recommend you to my boss for a job? How well do I know your work? Would I put my reputation with my manager on the line to hire you if all I’ve had with you is one interaction? Probably not.
Building a business network is an investment in time, effort, and helping others. That’s what the “building” part of building a business network is all about. People read about others who get the phone call out of the blue from someone they know talking to them about a great job opening — or a hiring manager calling them about the job — and are envious of the “instant” success.
Yet, that one phone call can represent years of investing in the relationship. We casually forget the effort and work that goes into building and maintaining relationships.
So, it’s time to get to work and build our business relationships. Just expect that it is uncomfortable until you practice, we need to remember that people are still people, we need to think how we can help them, and we shouldn’t expect instant results.
That’s what it takes to be a business networking Cubicle Warrior.
How comfortable are you with your business networking skill?