Is Networking a Dirty Word?

Read any column offering career advice and you’ll probably come across the word “networking” at least three times. It’s clear that this skill is one you need, which pains me because I think that I’m kind of bad at it. I wish that writing a good away message or knowing everything about Britney Spears could land you a dream job, because then I’d be the Editor-in-Chief of Glamour magazine by now. But, no, that’s not how the world is. The world is actually dependent on making personal connections.

I don’t know why networking is such a struggle for me. I “network” with older alumni from my college’s radio station just fine. But when I have to e-mail a family friend or a distant relative about something, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if I should ask a question in the e-mail, making it easier for the person to craft a reply. Should I just tell them about myself?

“Hi, I’m Lauren. I love to write. I blush easily and like coffee and can’t parallel park to save my life. I believe that Barnes and Noble is heaven and my guilty pleasure is Kid Rock Pandora.”

It doesn’t help that my parents love to find random distant connections and encourage me non-stop to e-mail these people. True story: my mom returned from a two-week long European journey and her first text involved a networking e-mail I should write. Needless to say, they believe in the power of meeting people. My parents are both successful, so I trust them. Knowing people is important but…whoa now. Their enthusiasm on the subject and my hesitation sometimes clash.

How do you write a “networking” e-mail that’s not awkward? I mean, I guess they’re all awkward to a certain extent. You’re e-mailing someone you don’t really know and both parties are aware that you’re networking. The amazing lady who runs my university’s career center would slap me if she knew I had so many hesitations about networking e-mails but…but… I can’t help it! I HATE people who use other people, and I’m always afraid that my e-mails make me sound like a user. I’m not! I swear I’m a very nice girl!

Look, I know networking is not about using people. It’s about building connections and helping each other. I even wrote a blog post about it. I get it. But sometimes it’s hard to keep that in mind when you’re staring at a blank screen, trying to compose an e-mail to one of these new contacts. You want to keep it light yet still let the person know what you want. You want it to be a comfortable exchange but you don’t want the person to feel cornered or pressured to help you in ways that they’re not able to.

Sometimes I think I’m overanalyzing this networking thing. Be polite and don’t be pushy and people will be glad to help. But then I think “Oh my God I’m e-mailing a busy stranger…what am I DOING!?”

I just need to force myself to picture my dream job on the other side of that “send” button and do it.

Do you ever feel this way about networking? How do you get over your hesitations?


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  1. […] in my comfort zone. I get nervous. I’ve written a few times about networking (read those posts here and here) and even though I don’t have the easiest time with this idea, I know the importance […]

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