A Non-Cringey Guide To Networking for People Who Hate The Word “Networking”

Jun 12, 2020 | Job Search Strategy

A title graphic featuring an image of several professionals mingling at an event with an alternate version of the article's title, "How to Network if you Hate the Word Networking."

It’s not all shaking hands, faking smiles, and throwing out business cards. Here’s how to actually network if you hate the word networking.

By: Ashley Leal | Resume Writer for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Are you the kind of person who hates the word “networking?” Does the mere thought of going into a room full of strangers and shaking their hands keep you up at night? Is giving the same rehearsed elevator pitch to every person that “seems important” the stuff of your nightmares?

Well, lucky for you, networking doesn’t have to be this cringey and miserable. Instead, here is a guide to help you build real connections without all of the annoying fluff and bragging that many people associate with “networking.”

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Yes, you do need to expand your network… but not how you might think.

There is no question that in this day and age, “who you know” is a huge part of a successful job search. Estimates typically say that up to 85% of jobs are filled through networking. You need to know how to make solid connections and leverage them to find a job. 

However, contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean wining and dining snooty people, sending out millions of LinkedIn connection requests, or handing out 101 business cards at every single event you go to. Instead, you want to drive your attention to building real, meaningful relationships.

Simply getting your name out there to as many people as you can isn’t really the kind of “networking” that works. Here are some ways to cultivate relationships that can actually lead to a job.

Quality over quantity: Building relationships for people who hate the word “networking”

Look among people who are already in your network

First, you can try to find a job by connecting with people you already know. You might be surprised to find out who’s already in your network!

Maybe you have a friend who works for a company you’d like to work for, or maybe one who runs a startup and could hire you. Perhaps you have a mentor from an old job who could give you advice for finding a new one, or maybe they could point you in the direction of a good career coach or resume writing service.

Focus on LinkedIn

You can do all of the above (and below) simply by conducting some research on LinkedIn and candidly reaching out to people. You can also look to other social media platforms and try to build meaningful relationships to assist you in your cause, but with 250 million monthly active users, you can’t afford to sleep on LinkedIn if you want a new job. Maintain an active presence by engaging with content like on any other social network, and you’ll start to see how many meaningful connections can be made here. 

Don’t just ask for a job

It is important to note though, that when you reach out to someone online, you don’t want to just blatantly ask for an opportunity. How would you react if a stranger came up to you and said, “Hey, can I have $60,000?” 

…that’s kind of what you sound like asking for a job in your first message to a person.

A photo of two women engaged in a conversation on a couch.

Having an authentic conversation is much more powerful in building your network than just asking for a job.

Instead, showcase what you can offer to the other person and make an easier, specific ask. Something as simple but specific as this is enough to open up a conversation: 

“I’m looking for opportunities in your field of digital marketing — could you tell me a little bit about your experience with [Company] so I can determine if it’s right for me? In return, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about [Different company].”

By using this strategic approach you are simply allowing the door to be open instead of shoving it into someone’s face.

As career coach Lisa Lewis says, “If you ask for money, you get advice, but if you ask for advice, you get money!” (Learn more from her about how to reach out on our podcast.)

Attend events you’re genuinely interested in

When most people hear the word “networking”, they think of mingling at events (whether digital or in-person). However, you don’t have to feel obligated to attend ALL of the events out there. Just attend the events that you are actually interested in, as you want to make sure that you are comfortable in the setting, and that you’re meeting people you’d actually spark a connection with.

You can also try volunteering for a cause that you are passionate about to build connections there. Does your local alumni association chapter host any events? While talking about your alma mater’s football statistics you may find yourself a new, meaningful connection. 

Volunteer your services

Another effective, hands-on method is offering to do “project work” for an organization that you would like to work with, as our partner Merryn Roberts-Huntley describes in this blog. Doing a bit of work for free might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s actually an excellent way to put your foot in the door.

Make networking work for you

The opportunities for building a network are endless. At the end of the day, it all boils down to who makes a good potential connection for you and how you want to approach them. Whatever the case may be, just remember that making meaningful connections versus a lot of random connections is the key to being successful.

So, the next time you hear the word “networking” and the hair on your arm starts to rise, remember it doesn’t have to be a whole production. Instead, stay true to yourself (or as a great king once said, “remember who you are”) and put yourself out there in a strategic, professional way. Quality connections, not the quantity of them, will propel you into the next steps of your career.

So get out there, start networking, and build some real connections — I promise it is not as scary as you think.

Happy networking!

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