By E. Elizabeth Carter
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Regardless of how you embark on your career journey, you have to be in the right frame of mind to be able to fully enjoy the experience. In addition, you need to have a lot of energy to be able to sustain the momentum of trying new things and also when dealing with roadblocks.
For some this could be challenging because it may require trying to engage with people we don’t know. Considering many of us were taught as children “not to talk to strangers” this takes on a whole new meaning when we apply it in our adult lives. Instead of looking at this as a negative experience fraught with anxiety about possibly being rejected or ignored, it should be viewed instead as a chance to learn from others. Each person that we cross paths with can teach us something – a new skill, a different viewpoint you had not considered, and even how not to do something.
When conducting a job search many people tell me that they do not know how to start to approach “these strangers”. There are a few methods but the best way to start is with your personal network. When was the last time you asked a friend or family member for a recommendation for a plumber, electrician, hairdresser, etc.? Now try asking for these same people to introduce you to those in their network that can offer you advice (not a job!). Your mission is to build relationships with those outside of your circle of contacts which can give you valuable insight into different industries, functions, market trends, and business issues. Keep in mind that knowledge is power so the more information you can gather, the more you can make educated decisions if this is the right strategy/path for you to take.
Of course LinkedIn can also assist you in increasing your contacts but you have to approach it the correct way. You can ask those that are connected to you to make an e-introduction but you can also approach others especially ones that are in your LinkedIn groups. This could be a college alumni group or an association. By already having something in common with these people it is easier to approach them to request to be connected (do mention how you are connected when sending an invite). Once your invitation is accepted, you can request a brief call to introduce yourself and ask them for their opinion on a topic or advice. You are NOT asking them for a job.
Building your network is critical in today’s business world but it does take a fair amount of energy and endurance. Knowing you want to reach out to x people a day can be tedious but it is very rewarding when someone is willing to connect with you and provide you insight on a particular subject. As my father always said “talk is cheap”; in other words you can always ask, the worst you are going to hear is “no”. Take that chance and you may be surprised by how many people are willing to help you.