Effective communication is crucial for career change success. Yet many professionals dislike an essential career communication activity — professional networking. If you develop your skills and learn how to overcome obstacles to professional networking, you will be able to achieve your career goals more quickly and more easily.
Do you find yourself putting off networking even though you agree that it’s important? Read this article for more insight into why you may be struggling more than you need to, and 3 practical steps to get better results by being braver in your career communication.
Is your experience something like this?
Rationally you know that professional networking is an effective strategy. But in reality your reluctance to make it happen often wins the day. Soon you begin to feel discouraged and networking feels even less appealing.
The good news is that your feelings of reluctance can be explained. In fact, avoiding situations where there is a risk of rejection is a natural human response. According to Dr Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, the experience of rejection, or even worrying about the possibility of being rejected, threatens one of our fundamental human survival needs — a need for connection. From an evolutionary perspective, human beings are hardwired to reduce the risk of rejection.
With this insight, you can shift to a new perspective. Rather than focusing on what might be wrong, you can look for new possibilities to make networking easier. Here are three ways to help yourself to move forward more easily.
1. Accept your Human Experience and Choose to Act
As we’ve discussed, avoiding rejection situations is a natural human response. Once you recognize that your brain is hard-wired to avoid the risk of rejection, you don’t have to take your experiences personally. You don’t have to slip into thinking that there is something wrong or that you’re not the networking type.
But of course you don’t want to stay stuck in avoidance. This is where your bravery comes in. By observing your automatic responses in different situations, you are opening the door to more choice. This increased awareness gives you the opportunity to remind yourself that your automatic response will often be out of proportion to the actual risk involved. Rather than succumb to your automatic response, you can choose different actions. You can harness your bravery and choose to connect with people who can support your career goals.
2. Creating New Opportunities to Build your Skills
The next step is to build on your initial bravery. The best way to do this is to create opportunities to experience success. As you continue to develop your self-awareness and choose ways to respond, rather than simply react, you will make progress.
What might setting yourself up for success look like in practice? Begin by listing networking situations that are relevant to your goals. Rather than jumping in head first, take a few minutes to rank them in order of perceived challenge for you personally. Then choose an action at the least difficult end of your list. An example might be reconnecting with somebody you already know from a previous job. It’s easy to lose touch in the midst of our busy lives. Former colleagues will usually be happy to hear from you and will respond positively.
Experiences of success will positively reinforce the choices you are making to continue connecting. By creating a personal ranking system and choosing networking goals that stretch you, but don’t overwhelm you, you are creating the conditions for success. Like many change efforts, forcing yourself to network, even if it works in the short term, won’t be sustainable. Instead, recognize the bravery needed and build your bravery muscle by creating the conditions for success.
3. Get the Support You Need To Overcome Obstacles
Shifting from seeing career communication challenges, such as networking, as a problem that you can solve, rather than a sign that something is wrong will make a difference. But what if there are still some situations in which you still encounter obstacles to professional networking. Maybe you’re not getting the results you want. Or maybe your progress is slower than you hoped.
If this is the case, it may be time for some additional support. We’ve already discussed why avoiding rejection can be such a powerful influence on social behavior. But the other side of the coin is the right support can make a big difference. To be even braver in your career communication, you can tap into the power of connection to help you make the changes you want.
Now that you’ve been observing your responses in different networking situations, you will be more aware of the types of support you need. Get more specific by asking yourself some questions. Is there a particular skills gap that is holding you back? Would you benefit from more accountability, feedback, or other types of support?
Here are some options to consider. Buddy up with another career changer. Join a group. Hire a career coach for personalized support.
Although in today’s world of work, work-life transitions are increasingly common for professionals. But if you’re not getting the results you want, and professional networking feels like an obstacle for you, don’t stay stuck. Get the support you need for faster progress towards your career change goals.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 6, no. 11
|Jennifer Bradley, PhD helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.
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