You have probably been told how important networking is to your job search. You may have seen articles stating that 80% of jobs are filled via networking. You probably even know someone who landed their dream job through networking. But are you doing it? Does the mere mention of the word “networking” make you want to shut your laptop and take a nap?
I get it! Asking other people for help is hard. And even if you feel confident enough to ask someone for help, you may not know anyone who could connect you to your ideal job. Or you feel afraid that you will bother people or look like you are taking advantage of a friend or acquaintance.
In her book The Defining Decade, clinical psychologist and professor Dr. Meg Jay talks about the importance of using your “weak ties” as part of your networking strategy. She defines weak ties as the relationships that are outside your group of close friends and family. This could include former professors, classmates, friends of friends, former co-workers, or even someone you see regularly at the gym. Jay suggests that while your close contacts may be great sources of support, they often tend to be very similar to you and may not have any more access to your ideal job than you do. Your weak ties, on the other hand, are more likely to help you move outside of what you already know and help you get connected to new opportunities.
But why would someone you don’t know well want to help you? Jay says “It’s simple. It’s good to be good. Most people remember starting out themselves, being helped by those who were further along. Because of this there is a reserve of goodwill toward twentysomethings.” Jay also emphasizes that knowing how to ask for help effectively will aid in getting a positive response. She advises job seekers to make specific requests such as “I am interested in working in human resources. Would you be willing to meet with me for 30 minutes and tell me about your experience working for X company.” Contacts are more likely to be willing to make time for you when they know what to expect from the meeting.
Networking does require that you step outside your comfort zone and take a risk. But it can also open a new world of possibilities and help you find your ideal job. A career counselor can help you develop a networking plan and give you tools to confidently build a network that will help you grow your career!
I have a deep appreciation for all the people who responded with enthusiasm when I found the courage to ask for help. One of the things I love about being a career counselor is that I get to return the favor and help my clients build their own careers. I would love to help you too!