By Gus Lawson
Networking is an essential, really unavoidable part of a successful job search today. If your confidence is low, it can be difficult building up the energy and desire to meet others. You might not know what to say. You may be concerned others will reject you.
Whether you are changing careers, have been unemployed for a while, are recovering from a toxic work environment, or have achieved less than stellar results in your last position, it's possible to build up the gumption and put yourself out there.
What will happen if you don't meet others? How likely are you to find your next role by only applying online? Recent studies of recruiting methods show that the best way to find a job is to network, and the least effective way is to sit at your computer, clicking on the "Apply" button endlessly.
To help you strengthen your confidence to meet others, I suggest you consider those who you've helped, create your career mission statement, and start small and easy when networking.
Put simply, confidence comes from knowing you can use a set of skills to help you, others, and/or the organization achieve a desired result.
I find it easier to take the pressure off by focusing your thoughts on others rather than you. Think of a time when someone really appreciated what you did for them. Pause until you come up with an example or two:
Remember confidence can ebb and flow like the tides. Just as your confidence is lower now than it was in your example, your confidence can grow again.
With your example(s) in mind, ask yourself if you always had those skills. I'm guessing not. You had to develop them at some point. Just as you developed those skills, you can develop more. You can grow.
You're ready for the next step.
Creating your career mission statement will help you in two main ways. First, you'll feel more at ease when others ask you what you do. You'll be able to answer the question effortlessly and naturally. You'll feel more confident.
Second, you'll narrow down who you want to serve. This will help you find prospective employers. You will know what to ask from people in your network and you'll know which networking events to target and what to ask.
Remember, don't strive for perfection. Spend no more than 45 minutes crafting your career mission statement. You'll want to test it out. See how others respond to it. You'll naturally make adjustments over time.
When I first needed to reactivate some old relationships, I felt awkward contacting people because I needed something.
I didn't want to ask. I wasn't sure what to ask.
If you feel similarly, don't worry about it. Lots of us have made this mistake. We can empathize, and you can move on, too, as we have.
Stop dwelling on the past, and move forward for your future. The key is to start small. As you consider your career mission statement, who are the five people you want to reconnect with who are likely to be able to help you?
As you contact these people, keep it simple. Let them know you're interested in reconnecting and seeing what they're up to:
Will everyone respond? No. Some might be having some tough times. Some might not value reconnecting because they are overwhelmed. Some might not respond to emails as well as they would like.
The bottom line is not everyone will respond, and there is no good reason to think about why one person isn't responding. Focus on those who do respond. Strengthen those relationships. They deserve you.
Want to make the note more personal for those you haven't connected with in a while? Let them know what you will always appreciate about them or what you'll remember.
After meeting the first five people, you'll probably find that it's great to rekindle relationships, and get out. Use the momentum and meet five more people. In fact, you'll probably be ready for the next suggestion --
I used to only focus on strengthening relationships with people on my immediate team. The old me wouldn't socialize during breaks at training events where there were opportunities to meet new people. I realized the error in my ways and began cultivating new relationships. I even started attending events so that I could meet new people.
Opportunities became available as a result of these relationships, but don't dwell on the benefits to you of meeting new people. Consider how you may be able to help them.
With your career mission statement ready, you're ready to meet new people. For the people you want to help:
Consider what becomes possible when you meet new people in a specific field, and they see what you offer. New connections, new possibilities, and new opportunities you don't even know about now will appear.
Networking is very challenging when your confidence is low, as it often is when you are in a job search, particularly an extended job search. Take the time to do some analysis, define your goal, develop a strategy, and put your strategy to work to meet that goal.
Career and leadership coach Gus Lawson has helped himself and others regain their career confidence. Whether his clients have been unsure about what to do next, needed to recover from a toxic work environment, or wanted to strengthen their brand, he helps them develop a roadmap and take action to achieve success. A proud U.S. Navy veteran, MBA graduate, and certified executive coach, Gus has made several successful career transitions. Gus is President of Juncture Consulting, LLC.