Does Networking Make You Feel Dirty?

Photo Credit: Big Stock/gstockstudio

Networking is a hot topic these days — from Adweek’s advice on “How to Network Without Being Annoying” to Fast Company’s “8 Common Networking Disasters and How to Avoid Them,” activating your professional contacts to help boost your career is no longer an option. We noticed, however, that all these articles make networking seem a lot scarier and harder than it needs to be.

Talk to any recent graduate or someone looking for a new job and you’ll probably get the same reaction when you bring up networking (some sort of grimace and or look of revulsion.) Networking often makes people feel phony and uncomfortable; approaching your colleagues and friends with a specific, personal goal in mind, can understandably feel inauthentic and exploitative.

Harvard Business Review recently published four strategies that can make networking feel less painful. We like these strategies (versus the “how not to be annoying” approach) because, like giving and getting feedback on BULLIT, networking can become something you do all the time, naturally, instead of limiting yourself to those critical points when you’re looking for a new job or promotion.

Not to mention that with BULLIT, you can display all the goodwill you’ve earned from your network all at once. Instead of having to ask the potentially hundreds of people you’ve worked with during your career for a reference, you have a backlog of excellent references waiting for you all in one place. It’s a powerful way to show prospective contacts who you are and what you’re all about.

Sound like a valuable proposition? Here are some specific ways BULLIT can help you put HBR’s networking strategies into action all the time:

  1. Focus on Learning.” HBR and expert Carol Dweck suggest you “see networking as an opportunity for discovery and learning rather than a chore.” Asking a connection or contact for feedback on BULLIT is a great way to open the door for a deeper conversation and more fruitful networking. Learn what your strengths are, and begin to get a sense of what opportunities you’re best suited for, rather than hitting dead ends or feeling like you’re running in circles.
  2. Identify Common Interests.” Before approaching a networking opportunity or conversation, get a better sense of what that person is all about. What are they like to work with? What are their strengths? Where do you overlap in workstyles and skills? Having a deeper knowledge about your contacts’ styles and preferences can make your conversation more authentic.
  3. Think Broadly about What You Can Give.” Networking is a two way street. Just as you’re looking to give your career a boost, think about what your network might also want from you. We’ve covered how BULLIT can help you be a mentor, no matter what your experience. Likewise, if you’re asking your best references to give you feedback on your BULLIT profile, make sure you give as good as you get.
  4. Find a Higher Purpose.” Sure, you might be looking for your next “right now” opportunity — maybe it’s a new job or a spot on a new project. But what are your long-term ambitions? BULLIT can help you identify what you’re best at, and from there, you can begin to build a profile that lets you achieve your end goals, whether it be starting your own business or just stand out from the crowd at your office.

Feedback and recommendations serve you best when you receive the information in real time; likewise, keeping up with your personal contacts doesn’t have to be so formal anymore. You can login to your BULLIT profile, follow the professionals you admire most, boost the coworkers you think deserve some extra credit, and make sure to stay in touch with the mentors and references who are bound to give you your next opportunity. Join the BULLIT community today at beta.bullit.me and stop feeling so awkward about networking!