Let’s face it – networking with people you don’t know or who are senior to you in their careers can be nerve-wracking. This is why so many job seekers resort to sending online applications – not only is hitting “send” much easier, but it requires little vulnerability. Somehow a “faceless” computer-generated email rejection stings less than a personal one.
Humans are master rationalizers. In the same moment we can justify one action, we can turn around and justify the complete opposite action when it suits us (“I should really go to the gym since I haven’t been there in a week. On the other hand, it would be rude to skip the happy hour.”). Avoiding cognitive dissonance (the discomfort that arises when your behavior contradicts your beliefs) is a powerful motivator to justify our actions.
When it comes to networking, after uncovering potentially fruitful new connections, it’s not unusual to get cold feet (I still do!), and begin to rationalize why it doesn’t make sense to reach out (e.g., “I should prep more”, “do further research”, “find someone more junior,” “wait until…“). While it completely makes sense to be well-prepared before reaching out to a contact, that’s usually not what gets in the way. Rather, vulnerability kicks in and fear comes out.
It’s true – you may get ignored, rejected, or blown off. However, my question is, “So what happens in your job search if you don’t reach out?”
The answer is invariably “nothing.”
You won’t gain a new person in your network, you won’t get interesting information about the company, you won’t receive helpful feedback on your strategy, you won’t get introductions or referrals, and you won’t be one step closer to landing that job.
When you look at it that way, the trade-off seems well worth the risk.