Networking is Not a Dirty Word

Many of my career coaching clients cringe at the word “networking.” But I think networking gets a bad rap. When undertaken in the right spirit, building relationships can be fun as well as helpful. And you don’t have to be Keith Ferrazi to do it.

Here are some of the main complaints about networking, and my responses.



Objection: Networking feels manipulative, like I am using people.

  • Expand your perspective and take the long view. It’s not all about you. Networking is relationship and community building, and it is reciprocal. When you connect and form a new relationship with someone, both of your networks expand. This is a benefit to both of you and all your connections. So instead of thinking of networking as an individual and selfish activity, think of it as a collective and mutually beneficial activity.

Objection: I hate to ask favors.

  • Get over yourself. It’s okay to ask for help – we all need it at times. Allowing someone to help you strengthens your ties, and everyone benefits. And for the most part, people who accept networking calls are expecting to be asked for something. Just make sure that you know what you want. If your new connection says “what can I do for you?” you should have a clear and specific answer.

Objection: I don’t have anything to offer.

  • Develop an offer. This may be concrete, and professionally related – specific services, skills, ideas, or expertise. Or it may be personal – offer to talk to their kid about your alma mater, recommend a great book or movie. If all else fails, do not underestimate the power of simply offering your interest, enthusiasm, and admiration.

Objection: I’m no good at small-talk.

  • Forget small-talk. Cocktail party conversations about the weather are utterly forgettable. Instead, ask a big question, be provocative or even slightly controversial. Or if that feels to edgy, just be curious.

Objection: It’s overwhelming, I don’t know where to start.

  • Start by making a list, and make the list as far-reaching as you can. Statistically, your weaker ties are more likely to be productive. Be organized – a spreadsheet is good – and include contact information and a place to write notes on your interactions. Once you’ve got an initial list, start making calls or emailing. It gets easier after the first few.

Networking is no longer just the province of job-seekers. Expanding your relationships and extending your reach is a lifelong process. Yes, you need to do it with particular focus when you are looking for a job. But don’t stop there. Continue connecting to others in your field or in an area of interest. Relationship building is an essential part of ongoing professional and human development. It will stand you in good stead when the time comes to make a change. But more importantly, you will enrich your life and the lives of your connections. You may even make some really good friends.