I stumbled onto this cringe-worthy scene again last week:
Younger person and older person sitting across from each other in Starbucks. Younger one looks simultaneously bored and obsequious—fake enthusiastic smile plastered her face, lots of nodding, and agreeing and saying, “yes, uh huh, oh.” Older one looks simultaneously committed and impatient—like he has an obligation to race through his pep talk, but he’d rather be anywhere else but in this Starbucks. He dutifully delivers his “career lecture,” peppered with examples from his own life and those of his grown children. Lots of impersonal second person, “you”–as in, “you’ve gotta do this, you’ve gotta do that.” Both parties can’t wait to get out of there. And nothing’s going to come of it. The bored youth can’t ask for more of this person upon whom she’s not really making a net positive impression. The impatient elder isn’t going to think of her next time he hears of an employment opportunity. The situation lacks all the required elements: mutually beneficial ongoing relationships through which actual networks are developed.
Networking ≠ asking for a favor
Networking is not asking someone for a job. It’s not asking someone for an introduction. It’s not asking someone for an informational interview.
It’s constant. It’s something that you’re always doing that is part of your everyday life.
This is networking: You’re engaging with other people in your professional and social circle. You’re asking them about themselves in those spare moments when you get a chance to talk. You listen. You ask follow up questions. Then maybe you send a follow-up email later with a link or some information you promised or came across. You do a favor when someone else asks you to. You show through your interactions with others that you are professional, experienced…qualified. Then in the moment when you do need something, you have an entire network of peers, colleagues, mentors, contacts, protégées on whom you can call. And it won’t be asking a favor so much as helping that person create an opportunity—for another party as much as you.
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org