Networking. I admit I’m not great at it, as far as meeting new people. I don’t want to bother people, and I always feel like I’d be bothering people if I called to introduce myself.
As far as my existing network, it’s small. The reality is that I left certain jobs in the past where there were personality clashes. My boss and I did not get along. Certain coworkers may have been friendly, but over the years we lost touch.
Now we have Facebook and LinkedIn and you can find these old coworkers and bosses. I might send a LinkedIn connection request to someone I used to work with, if I got along with him or her, but I won’t send a Facebook request. Facebook is more personal to me; that’s for friends and family–although I will probably begin to promote my blog there just to get a little exposure. For old coworkers whom I haven’t talked to in several years, I don’t expect much more than a business relationship. If such a person asked me for a recommendation, or if I knew of an opening that wasn’t right for me but might be right for him or her, I would try to help out. Hopefully, they’d do the same for me.
If I didn’t get along with a previous boss, I would not ask him or her for a reference. But what about the “OK to contact?” box on a job application? If I don’t check the box, it’s obvious there was a problem. If I do click the box, there’s a 50-50 chance that my old supervisor would say something negative. It’s not like I ever did anything heinous like steal from a company, or even call in sick a lot or show up late often. I worked hard. There were just a few jobs where there wasn’t a good fit. But “OK to contact?” Tough call.
My current network is an assortment of friends and family (one friend hooked me up recently with two freelance editing jobs, and a potential third job), a few previous coworkers, and some others that I’ve been getting to know on LinkedIn and Twitter. (If I’m commenting on an editing discussion, in an writers and editors group on LinkedIn, am I “networking”? Or does networking have to mean telling everyone I am looking for work?)
I know meeting people face-to-face is better than just connecting online–I can make a stronger impression. The website Common Good Careers suggests: “Go to every social or professional gathering you can, such as conferences, career fairs, alumni activities, professional association meetings, and fundraisers. Participate in volunteer opportunities at organizations that interest you. You never know when a hiring manager will be volunteering next to you at a soup kitchen or a homebuilding event.”
I don’t think I’m this shy, but here’s some good advice on networking for introverts from the blog “SimplyHired”: “Don’t go to an event with the idea that you’ve got to meet hundreds of people. “Go … with the goal of approaching just one person or staying for just one hour. You will see it’s not so scary and be empowered next time to network even more.”