Forget These 5 Networking Myths

Networking at business seminar

By Rebecca Healy

Do you cringe when you hear about networking? It has a bad rap, but networking is simply about building relationships, which is the cornerstone of both life and every success. Forget these five networking myths that hold you back, and start using networking to your advantage.

MYTH: It's about strong relationships. You don't have to wait until you've had coffee with someone six times and asked them to be your mentor to bring your networking relationship to the next level. Research shows it's your weak ties that make you successful. So don't be afraid to reach out to that person you met at a friend's dinner party once. That person is more likely to be able to help you than the friend you hang out with on a regular basis. Besides, there can only be so many people you're close to. The sheer diversity of weak ties and acquaintances puts you in an enviable position of being able to reach out to anyone and find a new job or client.

MYTH: You have to go to networking events. While the dreaded networking event is just as good a place as any to meet someone and strike up a conversation, many people feel uncomfortable under the spotlight. Lucky for you, a networking event is not the only place to practice networking. You can meet people with similar interests and connections during your everyday life. Think: couples game nights, baseball games, art gallery openings, alumni get-togethers, cookouts, kids play dates or just meeting some friends for drinks. Whether you're going grocery shopping or to an awards show, any time you're with other people is an opportunity to build those weak ties.

MYTH: The best connections are offline. There's no need to limit your efforts to real-life networking. Online recruiting events, Twitter and Facebook groups are fantastic places to meet new people – especially those in new fields of interest. Participate in online communities to exponentially grow your weak ties. Not sure where to start? Search for a Facebook group that might interest you, like social media. Request to join the group, and when you're approved, comment on another member's status update or question. That's it! No big secret, and no, it's not that different from what you already do online all day.

MYTH: You have to wait for an offer to help. While many of us wouldn't admit to holding this belief, we don't reach out to our network or follow up. Instead, we consistently wish and hope for something good to happen. But you cannot think your way into success! The only way to get what you want is to ask, because no one can read your mind. It's scary to put yourself out there, but people want to help you – it makes them feel good. Be specific and concise in your request, and don't worry about crafting the perfect note. No one needs to know your life story or why you hate your boss (the past) – just what you need to take the next step (the future).

Here are two simple, proven and effective scripts you can use right now with both your strong and weak ties to find a new job or a side gig:

The "I'm Looking for a New Job" script:

"Hi [Name],

I am looking to leave my full-time job, and I was wondering if you knew of any [social media/marketing] jobs or any awesome people I should talk to. I'd love to explore opportunities in the [agency] or [startup] world.

Wanted to put my feelers out...

Thanks in advance!
- [Your Name]"

The "I'm Looking for Freelance Opportunities" script:

"Hi [Name],

I am taking on extra work in the [marketing/social media] world, and I was wondering if you knew of any consulting or freelance gigs that might be good. Or any great people I should talk to? I already do work for [agency] and would love to add another client to my roster.

Wanted to put my feelers out...

Thanks in advance!
- [Your Name]"

You can edit these scripts to match your situation, so no excuses! If you aren't currently employed, take that part out. If you're not comfortable sharing information about your current clients, share the type of work you are looking for instead. The important part is to reach out to folks today. Try emailing five people to start.

MYTH: It's awkward to keep in touch. What do you say to these weak ties you barely know? Do you take them to coffee and ask about their kids? Should you email them every four weeks with monthly updates? While you certainly can do those things, and they are great actions to take, you don't need to worry about networking the "right" way. If it feels unnatural to you, don't do it.

Instead, when it occurs to you that so-and-so would love the article you just came across, shoot them an email. When you have a backyard cookout, and your friend's friend would probably enjoy meeting the rest of your clan, invite him or her. If you never think about that person you met at that business conference again, rest easy. You didn't mess up or miss out. More likely, it just wasn't the right time to stay in touch with that person.

Networking doesn't have to be a complicated undertaking. Rise above the usual networking myths, and build and use relationships in your everyday life. When you reach out to those around you, the world will conspire in your favor.

Rebecca Healy is the founder of Kontrary, a different take on money and happiness that helps you take control of your work and life. She lives in Washington, DC.