At last month’s CliffsNotes Book Club discussion, we explored strategies and tips for navigating career changes. Our facilitator for the month, Paula Brand, led a fabulous discussion and shared a lot of context from her experience as a career coach. (If you missed it, check out the portal for Paula’s notes.)
My “aha!” moment as I followed along was that career changes have a special way of pushing people out of their comfort zones! In particular as it relates to networking, many people hesitate to be proactive—or put it off for too long—because it’s simply too uncomfortable. I wanted to share a few strategies I have worked through with coaching clients over the years…that will help reframe the challenges.
Networking for Career Success
Challenge #1: It’s been a while since you connected with someone, and you hesitate to get back in touch.
Keeping up your professional network is a must, but for a number of reasons you may find yourself in a situation where you have not been in touch with your key “career success” people in a while. Perhaps you changed jobs, they moved, or you left a mutual group where you would regularly interact.
The reframe: Remember a relationship goes two ways.
Asking someone for time to talk can feel like an imposition, especially if you have not been in touch in a while. But remember that it is highly likely that they will also benefit from talking with you. When you reach out, be open about what you are asking for, and also offer to support them. This reframe can alleviate some of your discomfort and make the discussion feel more ‘give and take,’ and balanced.
Challenge #2: You cringe at the thought of bragging about yourself.
It can be uncomfortable to many to openly speak about accomplishments, skills, expertise, or credentials. Even if you are proud of your background, talking about it so as to ‘sell’ it can be hard.
The reframe: Put the spotlight on the organization.
In an interview, focus on the organization rather than your experience or background. Lead with what you appreciate about the organization and how your particular expertise could support/further their efforts. This allows you to share your success stories and skills in the context of enhancing the organization.
Challenge #3: You need to talk to strangers.
Often times, expanding your network involves connecting with new people. For many, this means being "on.” It can be particularly draining and anxiety-inducing!
The reframe: Set goals for yourself and network with purpose.
Networking goals can help remind you of the purpose and your desired outcomes. You’ll find it’s not about quantity (e.g., reaching out to everyone), it’s about quality (e.g., identifying a few key people you can make meaningful connections with). First set clear goals on what you are trying to achieve, then seek out people who can help you gain clarity on them. Instead of filling your calendar with coffee chats, this will help you engage in purposeful discussions with a wide variety of people.
What networking challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?
Networking to make a career change? Don't miss these resources: