I am not a networking professional. Talking to complete strangers is a challenge for me, and I’m not alone. Millennials and members of Generation Z often find it difficult to put themselves in potentially awkward situations, especially those in person. We seem to have an instinctual fear of being found awkward. Technology threatens our ability to properly socialize in the real, non-digital world. We easily hide behind our screens, hoping an opportunity will present itself.
As I’ve said before, I have a crippling fear of eating alone in public. On many occasions, my mother has tried to convince me that it’s normal to eat in the student union by myself. “Surely there are other people eating alone. Just go eat with them,” she said.
People my age don’t eat alone. Having cellphones glued to our hands enables us to find our friends and make plans with a simple text or message in GroupMe. We don’t go to a place hoping to see friends there; instead, we know where our friends are located at any given moment because technology allows us to do that. If I were to sit alone in the student union, everyone would know (at least subconsciously) that I could not find a single friend to share a meal with on campus.
This same mentality applies to networking. I fear that people will find me desperate if I reach out to them in search of advice or employment opportunities. They’ll know I don’t have any other options. In reality, people are more than willing to help you. In the last six months, I’ve forced myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve cold called and cold emailed individuals, think tanks, businesses and other organizations. To my surprise, the vast majority of those I contacted graciously answered my questions and gave me valuable advice.
As an intern, I continue to pick my work colleagues’ brains. These colleagues of mine point me to their friends and former employers (networking at it’s best). I’ve made plans to meet a number of accomplished individuals who want to help me achieve my goals. Staying silent is the worst thing you can do. If you do nothing, you’ll never know if that friend-of-a-friend or colleague could have helped you.
Next week, I’ll share my tips on how to reach out to these new contacts by phone, email or social media.
This post was originally published by the author 10 October 2016: http://www.yoproprobs.com/single-post/2016/10/10/Newbies-to-networking-part-I