By Mia Casey
A lot of people feel uncomfortable about networking. Which, hey, fair enough – it’s not something that comes naturally for some. But what people don’t often realise, is that you’ve already got a network. One made up of your friends, family and current colleagues. But treating your mates as networking connections is uncomfortable right? Well, it doesn’t have to be!
First thing’s first – you’ve got to be direct. There’s no point hiding your intentions behind platitudes or heavily dropping hints. That being said, don’t just kick-off a conversation by asking them for a job at their company. Next time you’re hanging out, ask them about their work; see what project’s they’re working on. They’re your friend so being interested in their life is part of the package. Then you can mention that you’re really interested in potentially getting started in the same, or a similar, field and ask if they have any advice or know any helpful people to contact. Heading into the conversation as a way to get advice, rather than straight-up asking for leads is not only more polite, it shows that you value their opinion.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to reach out. As long as you’re not rude or entitled, your friends are going to want to help you out if they can. If possible, try to have a chat with a couple of your friends who are in the same field, rather than just badgering a single one. They’re your friends, so hounding a single one for career advice is a sure-fire way of making that friend feel used and more like a basic industry connection, than someone you actual enjoy hanging out with outside of work.
Leslie Moser points out that if you can’t avoid asking the same person for advice multiple times (because they may be the only one in the industry that you know), you should ‘acknowledge the frequency of your requests’. Be upfront and apologise for hassling them, and reiterate how much you appreciate their help. It can also be a good idea to catch up with them socially, without any career-related motive. Go out for a meal or a drink, and if you can afford it, offer to pay for them as a way of saying thank you. When you do catch up, make sure to spend a lot of time finding out how they are and taking an interest in their life. Friendships are all about the give-and-take, so if you realise you’ve been ‘taking’ a lot, be sure to spend some time taking care of them!
Be careful on asking new friends for help
If the friend you’re reaching out to is one you’ve only met recently, hold back on making any requests. You need to invest more time in the relationship before you can expect for them to go out of their way to help you. And besides, they’re your friend! Spend some time being friends and getting to know each other first. If anything comes up that you can help them with – an invite to an event, an opportunity you’ve heard about, etc. – then be sure to do so. Be generous, and chances are they will be generous with you in return.
Don’t get mad if they can’t help
Finally, don’t get bitter. If your friend seems uncomfortable with introducing you to someone in their professional network, then don’t push it! They’re not trying to hold you back in your career, or make sure you fail. They have their own reasons for being reluctant – reasons that would probably work to your favour in the long run. Maybe the person you want to be introduced to hates networking or doesn’t have a close relationship with your friend – it would reflect badly on the both of you were your friend to push the subject, and probably do you a disservice in the long run.
This applies if you’re asking for any career help and your friend declines. Asking them to put their own professional reputation in jeopardy by endorsing you, if they’ve never worked with you, isn’t a particularly nice thing to do to a friend. Whenever you’re asking for advice, be sure to reassure them that if they’re too busy or don’t think they can help, you completely understand. Sure it might suck at the time if they turn you down, but ultimately it’s better to keep a friendship strong than harbour resentment and not gain any career connections.
Find out more
There are heap of articles online to help you learn more about networking with friends. I’ll include a few here if you’re interested in finding out more:
- 4 Strategies for Networking With Your Friends (Without Making it Weird) by Leslie Moser
- The Differences Between Networking and Making Friends by Laura Katen
- A Network of Friends by Ellen Goodlett
- Social Networking is About Real Friends by Jemima Kiss
Don’t forget: your friends are care about you, and are there to help. As long as you make sure you remain a good friend to them in return, there’s no reason your network of friends can’t also be part of your professional network. Good luck!
Featured image courtesy of Pexels.