Networking is necessary not just for a successful job search, but also for a successful career as a whole.
In fact it’s so important you should spend 80% of your job search networking and only 20% applying to online job postings.
This is because 80% of the working population found their current job through networking. Therefore it makes sense to spend the same amount of time on the most effective job search method there is.
But unfortunately, most people have it backwards and only spend 20% (if that) of their job search networking.
Based on the suggestion above, you may need to re-adjust how you currently invest your time in your job search.
But, this doesn’t mean you should overthink your networking efforts.
Stop Overthinking Networking
When I’m coaching my clients on various aspects of the job search, I’ll often get questions about how to write something on a resume or how to respond to a specific job interview question. When I answer those questions, the client usually doesn’t have to ask the same question again.
But when it comes to the topic of networking, I’ll get a question from a client on how to find contacts or how to reach out to them. When I answer those questions, the same client will often ask the same question again, sometimes in a different way.
When this happens, I can tell they’re way overthinking things. They’re doing so either because they think it should be more complicated than it actually is, or they’re afraid of what other people will think of them. Sometimes it’s both. Usually it’s the latter.
One of the most common examples of “overthinking it” is the question, “What if I reach out to that person and I don’t hear back from them?”
You know what? You may not hear back from them. Is this a reflection on you as a person? NO! It’s more of a reflection on the contact. That is assuming nothing simple happened like your voicemail getting accidentally deleted or your email ending up in their spam folder.
And you may not hear back from them now, but perhaps later.
I remember emailing someone and not hearing back from him until THREE YEARS LATER! When he finally did reply, my original message was included in his reply. I looked back at my first message and saw a few things I would’ve done differently in my approach.
But he was kind and said he always held on to emails like mine in case he was ever looking to hire someone with my skills. And so he did hire me to work with one of his clients. It turned out his timing was better than my timing.
So you may not hear back when you’d like, or you may not hear back at all.
But there’s one thing I can guarantee. You’ll never hear back from the person you don’t reach out to.
Are you really okay with wondering “What if?” the rest of your career?
Are you okay with missing out on a potentially great contact just because of fear of no response?
Because remember, no response doesn’t always equal rejection. It could just mean bad timing. Which is why you shouldn’t be afraid to follow up one or two times again. (Follow-up is another area I see clients overthinking.)
Instead Be Strategic (and Reasonable)!
When I say “Stop overthinking networking,” understand I’m not giving you license to not be strategic in your networking.
It’s important to know your reason for networking, who it makes the most sense to reach out to, how to explain to them why you’re reaching out to them, and how you can be an asset to them as well.
Therefore, you must also be reasonable.
Be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t expect someone to offer you a job right off the bat. You need to take the time to build and nurture the relationship first before you can expect any immediate tangible results.
Occasionally you might see some immediate results, but usually it takes persistence and consistency. This is why you need to spend 80% of your job search networking. It takes time!
Also, be reasonable in your requests. Don’t expect someone to drop everything to connect with you or to spend all their time talking with you. Don’t expect them to cater to your needs when you’re the one asking for their help or expertise.
Instead, do everything you can to make networking and connecting with you as easy and pleasurable as possible. This may mean driving out of your way to their offices for an informational interview instead of meeting at a location more convenient to you. It may mean getting up extra early to meet with them at 6:30 in the morning before their busy schedule begins.
I could write a book about networking and the ins and outs of networking etiquette (and someday soon I might!). I’ve already written several other posts about networking, including the best way to write an elevator pitch (yet another thing people overthink!).
But what I want to emphasize in this post is to stop overthinking networking by not letting fear take over. Don’t let fear, whether it’s fear of rejection or fear of failure, get in the way of making a meaningful connection that can have a long-term positive impact on your career.
Always be fearless, reasonable, and respectful.
For more posts and resources on the topic of networking, check out the following:
- How to Be Realistic About Networking
- Why “Can I Pick Your Brain?” Is the Wrong Approach
- The Best Way to Write a Successful Elevator Pitch
- More blog posts on networking.
- The on-demand video course The Secret to Successful Networking: How to Do It Naturally and Effectively