If you’ve spent your time joining professional associations, going to events, volunteering for committees, building relationships, following up for coffee, and you still aren’t getting any support from your network, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that networking is a big waste of time. And you’d be right. Most likely there are plenty of skeptics around warning you, “your time is better spent working on resumes and at that part-time job”. But, here’s the deal, networking is not a waste of time, and it will help you more than you can possibly fathom right now, but there is a caveat. Though building relationships exposes you to opportunities (that you would have never had otherwise), if you don’t seize them, you will never reap the benefits networking. To get help from the people in your network, you need to ask for it. Only then can the true power of networking begin to make a difference to your career. You have to ask, and you have to ask in the right way.
Is there someone in your life who you need some help from right now, but you feel awkward about making the request? Perhaps you need an introduction, a letter of recommendation, a reference or perhaps a freelance project. Is this person someone who knows you and feels positively towards you? If so, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable to ask them for help.
If you have a large network and you cannot find anyone who is willing to help you, then it’s not a network. You may be connected to a ton of people on social networks, but you have not succeeded in building true networking relationships. The people who claim that they never get anything from networking are usually the people who look at their network as a list of contacts instead of treating them as a group of friends (we’ll talk more about that in a later post). On the other hand, some people just don’t know how to ask the people in their network for what they need.
If you have developed good relationships with the people you consider to be a part of your network, they won’t be offended if you approach them respectfully, politely, and with a tremendous amount of consideration for their time. Don’t be afraid to ask. If you never learn how to ask, the people you network with won’t know how to assist you – and more often than not they are extremely willing to help .