Uncomfortable Networking

When I started my job search I knew I wouldn’t have to waste time networking.

I was too busy looking for a job to spend time networking.  I didn’t want to take hours each week in the car, spending money to going to events, and schmoozing with people who really had nothing to offer me.

One day I broke down and thought I’d give it a try, but I did it on my own terms.  I really was uncomfortable putting myself out there in front of people, not sure how to network.  And of course, since it was on my own terms, I didn’t get much value out of it (and I guarantee I didn’t give any value to anyone).

My terms included:

  • going to the meeting late… heaven forbid I got there early enough to have to talk to people,
  • leaving the meeting as soon as the speaker was done… again, no need to talk to people!

Reading Never Eat Alone and Thom Singer’s Some Assembly Required helped change my thoughts about networking… I got excited about those meetings, and changed the way I thought about the attendees.  I started going earlier and stayed until almost everyone was gone.  I started asking for lunches from individuals, and following up in email and on the phone.

Everything changed.  Even, and especially, the results.

At lunch a few days ago I was talking with a local entrepreneur and I had a thought – sometimes you have to be uncomfortable in your networking.

If you look at me now, especially if you don’t want to network, you might think that I’m a networking fool… a crazy networker who does nothing else, and thoroughly enjoys networking.

The truth is, many times I am uncomfortable.

I am not saying we have to be in ethically or morally uncomfortable situations, but many times we are sitting in the network meeting, or in the parking lot before the meeting, or right by our phone before we make *that* call, and we are uncomfortable.  Queasy.  Scared.

I’m going to guess that everyone, even Mr. Networker himself Thom Singer, who has written multiple books on networking, gets uncomfortable sometimes.

But let me encourage you to go through with it – don’t let the discomfort be a show-stopper for you.

Go into that meeting, open your mouth, meet people, and grow your network!  Uncomfortable is OKAY.

7 thoughts on “Uncomfortable Networking”

  1. I agree that one should go beyond his/her comfort zone to network with others. However, one thing I learned from my own experience (and confirmed by academic research) is that the best network is done via shared activities — i.e. you participate in some activities that you’ve a genuine interest, and form bonding with other participants.

    For example, let’s say you love to play squash and joined a local squash club. The chance is that you’ll make a few friends quickly, and some of them might be helpful to your career in addition to be your squash partner.

  2. I concur with this. I have made a serious effort to go to every monthly meeting of my professional group since January and have found that I am recognizing people and people are recognizing me. I am open to any “out of the box” or uncomfortable ideas. I’m also checking for other places to meet up with people.

    As they say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

  3. Jason, that’s a great point – so many people feel uncomfortable, queasy, nervous, etc., in situations that will put them in the spotlight or in “forced” interactions with people they don’t know. “Suck it up and just do it” is not always palatable advice, but sometimes we have to speak sternly to ourselves! And always – like most things that we dread – it turns out to be MUCH less painful than we anticipate. Thanks for sharing your own experiences and how “making” yourself do something you were uncomfortable with turned out to be so beneficial.

  4. Hi, Jason,

    Thank you for sharing your experience of networking and how you overcame both your reluctance and lack of “know how.” Tonight, I am going to share your post with my Savvy Job Search class I teach at my church! It will be a good discussion starter about how to address ways to ease into networking, shift your mindset, be responsible for learning how to network professionally…and get out there and do it.


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