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The missing ingredient in networking

Three women networking

You see, I'm incredibly nosy.

So when you reach out to me for a conversation the first thing I do is to look you up. Browse your LinkedIn profile.

(I do it openly too. So you'll SEE that I've done it. None of this creepy 'private view' roaming of your profile, making you wonder who has been watching you. None of that.)

But why?, you ask.

Yes, well, first of all because I'm incredibly nosy.

I want to know a bit more about your story before we meet.

Who you are, what you've done, where you're working now, what school you've been to, what other things you do. (Did you do an Arts Degree, but now work in Finance? I want to know how you got there! See what I'm getting at?)

And yes, I also look at your connections. Not WHO you know, but how wide your network is. I can't help it, it says it on the top of your LinkedIn profile.

Sometimes I read this: 12 years in the same company, even more in the same industry, 412 connections. No doubt all in that same company or that same industry. Oh, plus your husband or partner.

Yet here you are, wanting to talk to me. Stuck in a job that you no longer want.

Your profile tells me (and, crucially, others) a story. About you. And about your network. About WHY you are stuck.

Now lately it's all been about networking. 

Coaching conversations about networking. Reading about networking. Updating my 'Let's make networking FUN!' free guide. Creating one of my modules in the online version of my Career Freedom programme about - you guessed it - networking.

I've spoken before about the importance of networking for your career change and job search. (Read my blogs: 'Let's get visible' and '3 ways in which people are key to your career change'). 

Some career coaches will tell you that as much as 80% of the job market is 'hidden'. 

I don't know the figure. I am not hazarding a guess either. 

What I DO know is that a great number of my clients have got their next job through networking. 

That networking - next to applying for jobs - is a GREAT strategy. Not just for getting jobs, but WAY before that. Before you're clear on what you want to do. Before you're even clear on who YOU are and what you're GREAT at. 

But I've always felt there was a missing piece. Something that makes networking uncomfortable for you. And I think I might have found it. 

You see, what you feel uncomfortable about is TRUST. 

Relationships are built on trust. 

You see, you don't have any problems asking a trusted connection for referrals, for an honest assessment of your strengths, for feedback, for a reference, for them to be mentors or sponsors. 

But how did that person become a trusted connection in the first place? 

Four things*: 

  • Reliability - You trust the other person and they trust you because you have both proven to be reliable. You don't overcommit. You say what you're going to do and then do what you said. 

  • Congruence - When you say something you follow it up with action. Your words and actions are in alignment. 

  • Acceptance - You accept each other for what you are, with no judgement. 

  • Openness - And this may well be the hardest one of all: you are open and honest to each other. The reason I'm saying this is HARD because openness requires you to be vulnerable. To - perhaps - show that you <shock horror> don't know it all. That you may need help. 

Trust is also about reciprocity. About giving before you receive. About it being an equal relationship. 

Networking becomes easier when we start with our existing network. With the ones that we already know and trust. 

But if you're honest with yourself, how much have you invested in your current network? 

Do you TRUST the people in your network? Do they trust YOU? 

Do you feel you can be OPEN with them? And vulnerable? And ask for their help? Do you feel you've given as much as you received? 

What can YOU do to strengthen those ties? 

Yes, I think it's TRUST that's the missing piece. 

And your investment in time and energy in strengthening those relationships.  

So that, when the time comes, you are able to confidently ask for that help, that referral, that (glowing) reference, that sponsorship. 

And not feel that ball of tightness in your stomach as soon as I mention the word networking.**

What do you say? 

Is there work to do? 

*Want to read more about trust and networking? Read Joanna Barsh's EXCELLENT book Centered Leadership.

** Fun fact: some fellow career coaches don't like to mention the word 'networking' because it might make you feel fearful. Personally I like to call things by its name. Let's look your fears squarely in the eye. That's what I think, anyway!


Tineke Tammes supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artistnever-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler.

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