Get over your fear of networking Three reasons to get out there and just do it.

If you are a job hunter you’ve likely heard much about the importance of networking. Perhaps you’re reluctant to give it a try. You’re not alone.

According to a recent study conducted by Pepperdine University and Upwardly Mobile, Inc., “both the corporate and academic realms are seemingly blind to the power of networking, evidenced by a large population of students and employees who want to network but do not believe they are skilled enough to do so effectively.”

If your fear of networking is holding you back in your job search or career, here are three good reasons to get over your fear of networking fast:

#1. Networking is a critical business skill

Networking — the ability to meet new people and build mutually beneficial partnerships — is an essential business skill. It is far more than just getting out and meeting people, collecting stacks of business cards, or making countless “friends” or “connections” online. Networking effectively necessitates long-term, strategic thinking.

“You know those Verizon commercials where the entire network is standing behind a person? That’s how I see people. Everyone in my mind has a network standing behind them,” says Molly Wendell, President & CEO of Executives Network, a quickly growing peer-networking organization for executives in transition.

Individuals within your network may or may not be able to help you personally. However, they are more than willing to introduce you to people in their network who can. The ability to develop and tap into an extensive professional network is fundamental to success in business. This is true whether you are networking as a professional, job hunter, or entrepreneur.

#2. Your ability to network effectively can directly impact your career achievements and income

The Elite Networker study mentioned earlier reveals that networking is a key driver behind higher salaries and career advancement. This is particularly true of high-earning, “elite” professionals. They are adept at cultivating richer relationships and gaining more access. Thus they enjoy a higher level of success in their careers and personal lives.

ExecuNet.com – a recognized authority in executive recruiting and human capital – states, “Career advancement is all about making connections with people who can share ideas, leads and opportunities.”

The Elite Networker study illustrates that anyone can benefit significantly by improving their networking skills, habits, and mindset.

#3. Networking is the most effective job search strategy

Networking is a highly-effective job search strategy. According to the Elite Networker study, 40 percent of respondents found their current position through networking and referrals. Yet another study, ExecuNet’s Executive Job Market Intelligence Report 2008, reveals that 70 percent of job search executives found their current positions through networking.

Molly Wendell can testify to the effectiveness of networking. A few years ago, also during a tough economy, Molly spent more than 21 months looking for a job with barely an interview. Then she decided to change her approach to her job search.

“I found that the old way of job search just wasn’t working for me,” Wendell said. “I thought, there has got to be a better way to do this. I knew I had to get out and meet people. Once I changed my approach I got 60 meetings and 30 job offers in just 90 days.”

Through the effective use of networking, Molly was able to land the job she wanted in a field in which she had no previous experience or connections in an industry where not one company had a job opening listed. Through this process she developed an extensive network and learned winning strategies in “the game of networking.”

“That’s when I realized that it’s all about networking in a job search,” Wendell says. “You want to find a job? Shut off your computer and get out and network.”

Networking is a critical business skill that anyone can learn. Your ability to network effectively can directly impact your level of career advancement. When job hunting, networking is essential.

Advance your career by learning how to network effectively. Build confidence by practicing your networking skills in an environment in which you feel safe. Like a muscle, the best way to strengthen your networking skills is through use. So lose the excuses and simply go for it.

Don’t allow your fear of networking to stall your career or job search. Begin building long-term, mutually beneficial connections that will bring benefits now and throughout your career. Heed the advice of best-selling self-help author, Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

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