Networking: Easier Said Than Done

In my previous blog, I described how I decided it was time to get serious again about trying to land that paid job in a conservation or animal welfare charity.

The first step I took was to ask Jo (White) and Suzanne (Rogers) if they could give some pointers, since they have so much experience in the NGO world. After receiving a really helpful mail from Suzanne and having a long chat with Jo, it was time to come up with an action plan.

So, I wrote down a number of goals to fulfil in the short and the long term and one of the points was networking because Jo and many other people in the past had pointed out to me that it is not just about what you know, but who you know. This was always something I tended to avoid, hoping against hopes that I would manage to land the dream job, even without having a network. But this time, I would do things different and I would have a proper go at this thing called networking! My goal to approach a number of people in the next weeks for networking purposes, easy. Yup, coming up with the plan is the easy part for sure, actually doing it was when it got a lot more tricky.

Doing it, this networking thing
Networking is the key, but that is not an easy task for a very introvert and shy person. So, I thought I would take it easy at first and do some online networking, but every time I came across someone that sounded interesting and useful to talk to, I blocked. I found myself staring at an empty message screen not knowing what to say, where to begin.

This situation went on for a while and I got very frustrated with myself. How hard can something like this be? I chatted with some friends and colleagues about it and the advice was pretty much the same – don’t overthink it, people are often very friendly and willing to help and in case they are too busy, they will let you know.

I realised they made complete sense. How would I feel if someone would approach me about career advice? Would I be annoyed and unwilling to help them? No, of course not. I would want to help them and thinking about it, I realised I already have done so on different occasions. Conservation is such a tricky field when it comes to careers that most people have struggled at some point and are only too willing to advise or assist people who are going through a rough patch.

The first steps in the right direction
After this realisation, I finally got the nerve to approach people online and have had some very friendly and interesting responses so far. I even managed to make some appointments with people to have a coffee and a chat in the coming weeks. I am quite apprehensive about this, but also proud of myself for having made this step. It might not be a big step for many people, but for me, it feels like an achievement.

Another way I am networking now is by approaching people via friends and colleagues, that way I have a connection and sometimes people will help by introducing me. Obviously this is not the end of the road yet and I think it will take quite a bit more of courage building to visit events and approach people there, but for now, I just take it one new contact at a time.