‘I’m nervous about making connections…I’m shy…I’m an introvert.’
Is this you? Then you are not alone – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard these comments in the last two weeks. It seems to me that too many of us have put the whole concept of networking in a box labelled ‘Fear’.
Fear feeds on itself, eating away at our self-esteem, confidence and ability to share what’s in our own head with anyone else. Worse still, this fear of engaging confidently means we inadvertently engage with failure. It’s a bit like playing hide-and-seek on your own, or going to a party for one. Makes no sense, right?
If this is you then you’re standing on the outside looking in. You probably think you don’t have anyone you trust. Or maybe you are a perfectionist who can’t relinquish control of small tasks so you’re trying to do everything yourself.
If you’ve maxed out your mental credit limit, then you will have exhausted all of your resources just getting through the day to day. You may be wanting to expand your network or your company, or elevate your career – because at the end of the day everyone is telling you to network, right – but even thinking about it is exhausting.
Here’s the thing – the more you stay put, the more isolated and alone you become. That place of disconnection? Well, its a place that is inherently anti-growth and anti-change.
Think of anyone who has stuck around in a job for way too long for fear of the unknown. Terina Allen, CEO of ARVis Institute, refers to this as ‘job clinging’ (LinkedIn, 19 September 2014). Allen defines job clingers as individuals who work in the same position or in the same company for a period of five or more years with little or no change in job title or salary.
The three key risks these job clingers face are:
- getting paid less (see, for instance, ‘Employees Who Stay in Companies Longer than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less’, Forbes, 22 June 2014)
- being overlooked for promotion
- becoming less interesting to management and risking becoming irrelevant.
If you procrastinate or merely dabble at building a network, you face similar risks, including:
- getting isolated from opportunities
- going backwards in your career or losing your competitive edge
- becoming irrelevant and invisible.
Procrastinating over networking, avoiding it altogether or simply showing up to events because you have to (and then leaving as quickly as possible) is not the road to success.
To start building any form of effective network you’ve got to do something. As with anything worthwhile in life, if you want to play the game you have to put in the effort, and first off that means turning up and being prepared to step out of your comfort zone.
Make a conscious decision to explore other possibilities and people. Take a moment to think about what you want to achieve for yourself in the next 12 months. It’s time to face up to your fear, make the choice to go there and push through it.
Go on, dig deep and step out of the familiar and safe because it is only through taking action, and starting to transact with others, that this networking thing begins to deliver personal value.
As the Chinese proverb says, ‘Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid of only standing still.’