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The state of the network

Professional networking, ambivalence, and me

by Florinda Pendley Vasquez  |  4303 views  |  1 comment  |        Rate this now! 

"It's not what you know, it's who you know." Well, honestly, it's probably some of both, but I prefer to play up the "what" over the "who" because I am a miserable networker.

I'm not unfriendly or antisocial (usually); I'm an introvert, with many of the accompanying personality traits, such as becoming overwhelmed around large groups of people, acting cautiously in meeting people,and communicating best one-on-one. It's probably not surprising that I love to read and work in accounting, a field not noted for attracting extroverts.

However, these introvert characteristics make it a challenge for me to participate in traditional networking activities, although I've tried to overcome it --sort of. I've joined professional organizations, but don't go to meetings. I'll attend a seminar, but I'll bring a book to read before it starts. It's not that I'm incapable of socializing; it's actually become a bit easier for me as I've gotten older. However, I've just never gotten comfortable with it in the context of "networking." I've also internalized a lot of early, and probably old-fashioned, teachings about not being "forward" or "pushy," and waiting to be asked rather than asking - plus, there's an intimidation factor and fear of rejection. Consequently, as you might imagine, I don't have much of a professional network. It's mainly a few people I've worked with who have also become friends, and it's too geographically dispersed to be of much practical use.

And yet, I understand the value of a network, so I keep giving it a shot. It seems that for someone like me, who among other things is more comfortable with writing than talking sometimes, online networking might be a great approach. Work It, Mom! recently compiled some online-networking tips from discussions in their forums, and I've been doing some of these things for a few months now, but they're in connection with my personal blog, which has almost nothing to do with my career (wish it did). I don't even have any real desire to find blogs in my field, unfortunately for me.

Being a member of this community itself offers networking opportunities, through commenting on articles, blogs, and profiles, and participating in the Q&A's and forums, all of which I've done, and some of it regularly. Still, one thing I just can't get comfortable with is flat-out asking someone to be part of my network, even if we've had a number of online exchanges - it's the fear of rejection thing. And I've yet to be asked to be part of someone else's network. Now I understand that ideally, networking is a mutually beneficial relationship, but it may not always be clear early on what exactly those benefits might be. Still, if "who" you know really does matter more than "what" you know, could it be that you sometimes never quite know how or when knowing a certain "who" might turn out to be valuable?

About the Author

Florinda is a wife, mother, stepmother, blogger, and accountant employed by a Southern California nonprofit agency.

Read more by Florinda Pendley Vasquez

1 comment so far...

  • I think I'm finally getting the idea of networking - AND the value of it. I just finished a (very basic) book on the subject which suggested that you get into the habit of talking about your work (or your work aspirations) to five different people each day. Given that I work from home and don't necessarily SEE five people in a day, that can be a challenge. However, I've done my very best over the past couple of weeks to do this, and I'm discovering -- it's kind of fun.

    It's done two things for me: 1) the more I say "I'm researching a new career option - I want to be a writer", the more real it becomes to me, and 2) twice now, people have offered to put me in touch with someone who might have information for me.

    Also, given that I know it's supposed to be a two-way street, I am including in the "five people a day" those times when I initiate something for someone - send them a link they might find useful/interesting, for example. Since I'm the type who LIKES to do nice things for other people (even though, in my general absent-minded disregard of the passage of time, I may not do it as often as I should) this aspect of networking is intrinsically rewarding. It also minimizes the feeling you mention, of neediness.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 23rd August 2007