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If networking makes you feel anxious, reframe your approach and follow these 5 principles.




Hi!

This week’s newsletter is dedicated to my fellow introverts and anyone who feels cringy about networking.

For many people (myself included), few things are more awkward than having to “market” ourselves.

Over the years, I came to realize that networking doesn’t have to be about self-promotion. When approached with the right mindset, networking can be fun, insightful, and highly productive. The key is to switch your intent from transacting to learning. Today, I’ll share the approach that helped me accelerate my career searches, reach out to people confidently, and make lasting friendships. It’s based on five principles.

  1. It’s all about them.

  2. Ask for referrals, not favors.

  3. Pay it back with dividends.

  4. Rekindle old connections.

  5. Nurture relationships.

Let’s dive in!


Networking is not about asking for the keys to the kingdom.


Networking carries a stigma of approaching strangers in positions of power and bothering them with an ask. It often conjures images of crowded banquet rooms, awkward introductions, and 60 excruciating minutes of meaningless small talk with random people with whom you have nothing in common.

For self-proclaimed introverts, this is as close as it gets to being naked in public.

What makes these situations uncomfortable is the underlying objective: to get in front of someone who holds the keys to your next job.

The problem with this mindset is that it sends two messages:

  • To you: “This is my chance to make a good impression, so don’t blow it.”

  • To them: “Can you help me land a job in your company? Please, please, please?”

The spotlight is on you. You’re under pressure to perform a flawless dance to build rapport, showcase your expertise, make interesting remarks, and highlight your qualifications. Approaching it this way raises the stakes of the conversation.

Here’s a better way to think about it.


Networking is about connecting with people whose experiences can inform and inspire your search.


Networking is 10x more effective when your goal is to spend an hour with someone interesting and learn about their career path and the work they do.

Compare that to shoving a resume down their throat and asking to advocate on your behalf. Which one feels more natural?

Coming from a place of curiosity unleashes a positive chain reaction.

  • Focusing on the person demonstrates sincerity.

  • Sincerity leads to trust.

  • Trust leads to connection.

  • Connection leads to referrals.

  • Referrals have a compounding effect.

  • And compounding carries you forward exponentially.

Landing a job is the byproduct.


Five principles to network like a pro.


  1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM

Everyone wants to be noticed, feel heard, and know their voice matters. You’ll be surprised, but most people are seldom asked to talk about their stories, aspirations, and challenges. When you show genuine interest in someone, they’ll respond in kind.

Come prepared with questions, and let them do the talking. Take notes and listen for insights, pain points, and mutual interests.


  1. ASK FOR REFERRALS, NOT FAVORS

Nobody likes to do extra work or vouch for someone they just met. If they do, it’s a one-off transaction ending there. But connections are a different kind of currency. Sharing them is free, effortless, and low-risk.

At the end of every conversation, ask them, "Who are others in your network who you think I should talk to?".


  1. PAY IT BACK WITH DIVIDENDS

If someone's offering their time and insights, they deserve reciprocity. If you are meeting for lunch or coffee, pick up the tab, and offer connections and resources from your network.

You may not have valuable contacts to offer, but there are many small gestures to express your desire to invest in the relationship. You could mail a copy of your favorite book, send links to interesting podcasts or share articles related to your conversation.


  1. REKINDLE OLD CONNECTIONS

This is the most valuable and underrated group in your network.

80% of my career pivots started with classmates I haven’t talked to in 20+ years, colleagues from 4 jobs ago, and consultants I’ve worked with at some point.

Start here. They already know who you are, so no awkward introductions are needed.


  1. NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS

People often shelve their network as soon as they land a job and reach out several years later when they want to find another job. That’s a mistake.

Keep in touch regularly. Drop a quick note to say hi. Send updates about your whereabouts and successes. Comment on their pots and refer people to them.


Treat networking like research instead of a sales effort. It will shift the focus to the other person, which will help you relax and feel in control. Driving with genuine curiosity will help you find inspiration and accelerate your career search. And most importantly, you’ll build lasting relationships with interesting people who will be glad to plug you into their circles.


TL/DR


5 Principles to network like a pro

  1. It’s all about them.

  2. Ask for referrals, not favors.

  3. Pay it back with dividends.

  4. Rekindle old connections.

  5. Nurture relationships.


That’s it!


As always, thanks for reading.


Hit reply and let me know how this post helped you. Your comments and feedback (good and bad) are pure gold!


If you are stuck in a mid-career crisis and are ready to start walking out of the fog, ask me about my 1:1 signature career transformation program.




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