You know you ought to.
You know you're not getting anywhere by firing off online application after online application after online application (and getting about a 3% response rate, if that).
You've heard that the fastest path to a new job or career is by cultivating or leveraging an "in" at the company you're dying to work for. (And, for what it's worth, you believe it.)
But something is keeping you from picking up the gosh darned phone, or sending the gosh darned email to get the ball rolling.
That something is fear.
Fear that the person will ignore you.
Fear that you'll do it "wrong".
Fear that you'll make someone feel imposed upon.
Fear that the world will fall off its axis and implode into a million pieces if you dare to take a step that doesn't just feel moderately uncomfortable; it feels terrifying.
Let's boil this down and take some of the fear out of it. Let's take five minutes and explore five ways to make job search networking five times easier.
1. Approach Like You'd Want to Be Approached
Part of this is really that simple. If someone needing career advice or an introduction or some other kind of job search counsel came to you, what approach would you appreciate, and what approach would make you feel annoyed, ambushed or resentful?
OK, great. Now, when you approach your next networking contact, do it in the way you'd appreciate and respond to favorably. Done.
2. Expect Some Crickets
"But, but, but... what if he ignores me?" Yes, what if? If someone you approach for job search support never responds to you, it's the same exact outcome as if you never approached in the first place, so it's no loss, no gain. Right?
So why not at least try?
You've got to expect some crickets here, and not let it ruin your entire outlook. People are often enormously busy in their day-to-day jobs and lives. They're fighting fires, juggling home-life balance, buried alive in emails, across multiple email account and social media platforms.
Even people who like you and may wish you all the best may sometimes either take forever to respond, or overlook your email altogether. Don't let it unhinge you. Wait a while and either follow up again, or find another connection.
3. Show Genuine Interest and Curiosity
People straight up like feeling important, noteworthy, valued and noticed. Approach people with this at the forefront of your mind. If you first mention something about that person that you've noticed, that you're impressed by, or that you're curious about ... before you ask for a single favor ... you may be surprised how willing she is to chat with you, and potentially do you a solid.
4. Practice the Approach With a Friend
If you're still feeling all like, "Oh, crap. He's going to think I'm a fool" about this, grab a friend or family member that you know will give you honest, helpful feedback. Ask them to be the "pretend stranger" that you're planning to approach. Practice on them, whether that's face-to-face or in writing.
And, if it's face-to-face, consider recording the interaction, so you can watch how you come across, and fine-tune from there.
5. Remember That We are All Afraid
Everyone. We are all afraid. Even the jerks who look like they were put on this planet to schmooze it up with people. Guess what? Even they get nervous about asking for help, advice or favors. They have days when they feel like they're not enough, or they won't get it right.
The only real difference between those of us who are too scared to try networking and the one's who appear to have plopped out of their mothers' wombs knowing how it's done? The latter person wasn't afraid to try. And when that latter person tried, she saw how favorable the results can be, and then she got more confident. And then she got better and better at it.
For every single job you apply for, at least one person is finding and endearing themselves to an influencer or a direct decision maker on the inside of that company. Every one.
And, more often than not, that person is going to be among the first interviewed.
Do everything in your power to be that person, for every job you pursue.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (COD Newsroom)