Workbook with Tips for Networking and Social Anxiety
August 25, 2017 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Yay me I am looking for a new job. I have been told that I need to 'get out there and network.' But I already struggle with social anxiety. The idea of going to coffee with someone I am not super close with and asking about job leads feels disingenuous. Is there maybe a good blog post on this, or a workbook? I would appreciate any tips or advice.
posted by TRUELOTUS to Human Relations (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It might be helpful to think more about what you're hoping to get out of these interactions. Would it help at all to mentally re-frame these meetings as "research"?

"Networking" the way you describe it above (approaching strangers and asking for jobs) does indeed sound very stressful, but a lot of people, when they talk about networking in the context of job-hunting, are actually talking about informational interviews. In informational interviews, you actually trying to learn from someone about their job (and possibly, in the process, forming a genuine human connection that can lead to job leads down the line), not just artificially glad-handing/back-slapping. I'm an anxious person too, and this distinction made a world of difference for me once I figured it out.

Re: specific resources, I'd recommend reading Ask a Manager. She has some really good posts about informational interviews here, here, and here, as well as information on many other subjects.
posted by Owl of Athena at 2:46 PM on August 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Bourne's Anxiety and Phobia Workbook is usually highly recommended.
posted by WCityMike at 3:12 PM on August 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

The secret to remember is this: people want to help. It feels good to have the knowledge and ability to help someone else on the job market, and people remember how others helped them. Yes, even when it's as blatant as "We haven't talked in months but can we have coffee and talk about job stuff?"

This is so so hard to internalize, I know. It feels so awkward and embarrassing and pushy and selfish to ask, and so hard to believe people view it as anything other than a painful burden to talk with you. But I swear to you it is true. I have somehow become a person that gets asked for job advice sometimes by grad students and postdocs in my field, and I freaking love to give advice. Now I totally get why, when I hesitantly and nervously asked for advice, so many people fell over themselves to talk with me, even though I'm not a super cool rockstar in my field or anything. Because everyone loves to talk about themselves and what they know; everyone loves to feel like they could share the lessons they've learned from their own struggles; everyone loves to feel like they know exactly who you should talk to (and sometimes they actually do). (See also: the entirety of Ask Metafilter responses.)
posted by snowmentality at 5:00 PM on August 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Snowmentality beat me to it... I came in to say that people really do want to help you. It does feel opportunistic, but remember that someday, you'll be given the opportunity to pay it forward to the next person.

It's always such a great feeling to be able to help someone. I work in government, and I sometimes get questions from friends about how to get started with the application process. It's a complicated, convoluted process, and if I can save them time trying to find where to go, what to read, which classification they should consider, getting started figuring out the process. . . honestly, I'm happy to do it. I know what it a godsend it is to have someone help you, because I was there once too, and it's frustrating when you don't know what you don't know. I was lucky to have that person in my life when I applied, and now I help people when I can.

Also, it's a benefit to the person you're networking with... they have another contact too, not just you. Win-win.

One way that I've gotten over the "I'm taking advantage" thing is to express gratitude to the person in some way. You can write a thank you note or even just send an email as a thank-you to them for spending their time with you. Lunch may not be in your budget, but a thank-you note is cheap and always really well received, especially these days.

Edited to add: Good luck! : )
posted by onecircleaday at 8:07 PM on August 25, 2017

Oh! I just thought of something - do you have a close friend you can practice with, if you're comfortable? You can come up with a list of questions, meet them somewhere and just role play. You can have them give you feedback, like you might for a job interview. It might take the edge off the social anxiety, plus you'd have the added advantage of thinking through your questions with additional input from another person, as oppose to just thinking of them yourself.

Just a thought. Obviously, if that increases your anxiety, don't do it : )
posted by onecircleaday at 8:14 PM on August 25, 2017

thank you all :)
posted by TRUELOTUS at 1:49 PM on August 26, 2017

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