The first thing I tell people when they want to start a job search is to look at their network. I tell them to make a plan to reach out comfortably to people at jobs and companies that interest them. Then, I tell them to put themselves out there—to mention what they’re looking for —and let the universe know what they’re trying to manifest.
Not always. Not even for me.
For me, each reach out or conversation makes me feel vulnerable and exposed and leaves me questioning everything I've done. The lovely imposter syndrome voice comes into my head. It takes tremendous strength to beat it back with a broom.
Each interaction comes with the opportunity for second-guessing. Will they respond? Will they roll their eyes and think, "What does SHE want?” Will I end up with too much work? Will I be able to stay true to myself and my model while also building a brand and a business? Is this person authentic? Will they understand my unconventional background?
I spend a lot of time shooing away doubts.
We all know that networking is the key to what's next: maybe a new job, a move within a company, or a new opportunity. Yet we have to remember that networking can take a lot out of us. Here are some tips to stop doubting yourself and make networking a little less onerous.
Before talking with someone, do your research on them to see where they're working, what they're doing, and, if you're connected on personal sites, what they've been up to. Show you're interested in them by referencing that you've been keeping in touch—even if you haven't been keeping in direct touch.
2. Prepare, again.
Practice and be able to say what you're up to and what you're looking for succinctly. If there's an ask, say it clearly and know what you’ll say to follow up. Don't make the person you’re talking to work any more than necessary—you're the one who is asking for help.
3. Reward yourself.
Make yourself the "When I finish this email to my old boss, I'm going to...." deal. Whether that reward is getting your next cup of coffee, calling a friend or reading a chapter of your latest novel, hold that carrot in front of yourself and enjoy it once your task is complete.
4. Set realistic goals.
I made a goal of reaching out to two people per week, tweeting at least ten times per week, sharing articles at least twice a week, and writing an article a month. All of these are reachable and allow me to over-achieve. These goals make me feel great about where I'm headed.
5. Do some networking online.
Join free communities like Fairygodboss, LinkedIn, Facebook groups (in your field), Twitter chats, The Muse, Slack channels and more where you can share your expertise. Learn from others and make connections. Send some direct messages to people who are saying interesting things, or reply with support to their ideas. While some of these can fall flat, others can be the beginnings of important professional relationships.
6. Build someone else up.
When you're networking and putting yourself out there, make sure to support others who are doing the same. It starts that "pay it forward" feeling and brings you a smile and confidence. We can all help someone, in a big way or small. By putting good into the world, we lift our spirits, which drives our energy for those networking conversations.
7. Don't forget your personal and non-work friends.
Reach out to that friend from high school who you've lost touch with over the years, or your friend from your moms’ group whose kids go to a different school. This is also networking! When we network with friends, the connection builds us up and gives us that energy and confidence to put ourselves out there professionally. Also, that personal friend may know someone who knows someone who is the key to getting you where you want to go.
Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Make a networking plan that feels achievable and comfortable—but also helps you achieve your goals and feel like you're moving towards the next thing. If you're employed, make sure to do your work well and don’t let your performance slip due to your networking. If you're not employed, structure your day and make sure to take care of yourself while looking.
For some people, networking is their jam—they love it and can't get enough. For others, it's hard, exhausting, and depleting. Many of us are in the middle, and making a plan to network successfully will help you achieve your goals and make your coach so proud.