Finding opportunities through relationships isn’t as scary or hard as you might think.
The concept of networking always felt foreign to me as an English Major. I knew it was important; I just didn’t know how to begin.
I’ve had all but one of my job offers through my personal networks. (In fact, when I got laid off, my personal network got me a new, better job offer only a few days later.)
Here are some of the ideas I had that kept me from actively networking:
I had this high idea of what it took for someone to want to network with me. (Heck, I wouldn’t call someone my friend unless they were really, really close.)
I thought that if I hadn’t contacted someone in a while, or if we weren’t even super-great friends, it wouldn’t be appropriate to network with them.
I didn’t want to be a shill who only became friends with people so I could get a favor someday
On top of all that, I was raised by a history professor whose life rule, above all else, was, “Don’t bother other people.”
It took years of learning about networking to realize how wrong my ideas were.
Here is what I know about networking now:
“Networking” is a sloppy term that makes natural relationship-building feel artificial. So I don’t like to use it anymore. Instead, I think of it as relationship building or making friends.
The best way to build relationships is to help people. Online forums (like reddit) are great to practice this. So is responding to social media posts.
Being friendly doesn’t cost anything, and no one will hate you for it (as long as you aren’t “fake friendly”, which is irritating).
Make an effort to learn names. This goes a long way, especially when you run into someone four years after graduation.
Even if you’re not close friends with someone, you can still connect on LinkedIn or Facebook. You’re not committing to someone’s entire life by accepting a connection.
Networking (or relationship-building) isn’t as intimidating as it may sound if you’re not in a business or comm program. It’s simply a matter of being polite, friendly, and open to friendships.