Admitting That You Have a Networking Problem & Figuring Out What Your Issue Is - Part 1: The Anxious Networker Series
In this blog series, we examine our own issues with networking and creating professional contacts. Part 1 will take us down a road where we can admit that we have a networking problem and possess the intrinsic ability to figure out what our issues are. Part 2 will discuss how we combat those problems. Part 3 will go over the best places and ways to network for the Anxious Networker.
Hi, my name is Alexis, and I had a networking problem.
If you ask people what networking is, you will receive many negative answers. A large majority of professionals have an abhorrence to networking. Networking becomes a personally-developed necessary evil.
As a younger professional, I utterly loathed networking. My first job did not require networking. I had a marketing department behind me that fed me clients daily. I did my job, and that was that. I had no “need” to enlarge my circle. I failed to think about the future.
Then came what was the “dream job” at the time. I opened my offer letter, and there it was . . .“Your base salary will be augmented with a bonus structure which is contingent upon a number of factors including going above and beyond to build up your strategic network . . .”
I inquired – “What does that mean, exactly?” The answer was, “You must attend at least one networking event per week.”
My stomach dropped.
I tried to talk myself out of the job. My friends and family, who I went to for justification, did not understand my issue with this part of my offer – I was always a speech-giver, a social butterfly, a girl who always ran for and held office at every school she attended. Someone who gave speeches at large political events and fundraisers.
I knew, deep down, that I was being absurd when I considered my anti-networking excuses and depriving myself of a new opportunity for growth and success. I had a networking problem.
Admitting Your Anti-Networking Excuses.
I wrote down every excuse that I had against this networking and inherently, against this new opportunity.
I was always too tired;
I had too much to do;
The events were not going to be helpful; and
I already knew everyone there.
The next step was writing down “if, then” statements.
If I was not too tired to go to the gym after work, then I was not too tired to take a night off for an event.
If I had too much to do, then I should not be watching the latest installment of Gossip Girl on TV.
If I did not plan the event, then I had no idea if the event was going to be helpful.
If I did not plan the event, then I had no idea who was going to be there.
The exercise above made me realize that I had no excuse to effectively hurt myself and my career. I had to figure out how I got to this sad place.
It was time to find the moment where I changed.
It was important to take a trip down memory lane and pin-point exactly when I lost my social mojo so that I could understand HOW and WHY I got there. I had to rewind my entire life to figure out when it all happened.
Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Undergrad: I thought . . . no. I was really social, I was always on Student Council or Student Senate, I loved giving presentations and book reports to my class. I was never afraid to speak up or approach strangers when I wanted to make new friends.
Suddenly, I realized that it was law school. I lost my networking and outgoing social skills in law school. Although I was still Vice President of my law school, I was not comfortable in the spotlight anymore. What changed within me? I had to think hard.
It all happened my first year. I was out of my comfort zone. I was a thousand miles away from the only home I ever knew, and I was not armed with confidence in my education yet. The first “incident” happened during Mock Trial tryouts. I was terrible. I did not study the case enough. I did not rehearse my opening. I lost my words. I failed. I dropped out before the next round could come along. The next “incident” was during my oral argument in my legal writing class. I could not get the Mock Trial incident out of my head. I prepared for my oral argument, and I knew it, but things went very bad, very quick. I stood in front of my professor and I started shaking. I could not hold the binder of work that I put together all semester. Next, the sweat started pouring down my face and my body. I was soaking wet, and I was embarrassed. I rushed through my oral argument, ran out of the room and started crying. What in the world happened to me? These two events created so many falsities within me that would carry on for almost ten years.
It was time to dissect those events and feelings so that I could get over it them.
It is not a challenge to read through the paragraph above to figure it what my issues were:
New Places, New People (“It all happened my first year. I was out of my comfort zone. I was a thousand miles away from the only home I ever knew . . .”);
Lack of Belief In My Abilities (“I was not armed with confidence in my education yet . . .”);
I Lacked Practice with My Elevator Pitch (“I did not study the case enough. I did not rehearse my opening enough . . .”);
The Belief that Staying Away is Safer than Trying ("I dropped out before the next round could come along to keep me or deny me . . .");
My Negative Past was Creating My Future ("I could not get the Mock Trial incident out of my head”); and
My Bodily Reaction Was to Sweat (“the sweat started pouring down my face and my body. I was soaking wet, and I was embarrassed. . . “).
It’s this simple:
Give in and admit that you have a networking problem (ps – if you refuse or hate to network, then you have a problem);
Write down your excuses;
“If, then” your excuses;
Realize that your excuses are simply . . .excuses;
Recap your life to figure out what events are causing you to deny yourself of professional growth; and
Dissect those harmful moments into general statements about you and your mind.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3.
Alexis Hailpern is a business and tax attorney with Jackson Kelly PLLC. She practices out of the Firm's office in Denver, Colorado.
Alexis has diverse experience in tax controversy, not-for-profit formation and compliance, as well as business law. She handles breach of contract matters, construction disputes, election law issues, and often represents borrowers in large financing transactions. Alexis also represents business and individual taxpayers before the IRS, state and local taxing authorities in tax controversy cases. Alexis practices in the United States Tax Court. She has vast experience with offers in compromise, payroll tax issues, excise tax issues, innocent spouse relief, penalty abatements, trust fund recovery penalty, installment agreements, under-reporting issues and disclosures as well as audits. In addition, she has experience with expert witness testimony.
One of Alexis’ greatest passions is serving not-for-profit organizations as an advisor, attorney, and occasional board member. Alexis has helped countless not-for-profit organizations in the areas of formation, obtaining not-for-profit status with the IRS, fundraising, and tax compliance.
Alexis is a proud Coloradan as she can trace her family roots back to when Colorado was Kansas Territory. As a 5th generation Denverite, Alexis loves everything that Colorado has to offer. When she isn’t at the office, Alexis enjoys community service, reading, golf, spending time in the Rocky Mountains, keeping track of the Supreme Court and of course, being with her family. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone: 303-390-0188.