The Art of Professional Networking: Gratitude
About the Author

Michelle Aikman is a military spouse and career management expert.

Every time I go to a career or job transition workshop, networking comes up, and inevitably I hear someone say, “Networking makes me feel dirty” or “I don’t like networking,” because they think they are the only one who gains anything from networking. They feel it is taking advantage of others. In reality, we constantly are networking, and both parties have something to gain.

If you are someone who might utter the statements above, I want you to reframe how you think about it and give networking another try.   

Relationships are 2-Way

For a moment, forget networking altogether and just think about relationships. What relationships do you have in your life … family, friends, neighbors?  

Are these one-way relationships? No way! Even when we don’t immediately have something to offer the other person, if we show our appreciation for them, we build and strengthen the relationship. Listening to others, exchanging thoughts and ideas, and simple engagement all are “commodities” being exchanged in a two-way relationship. By providing these intangible supports, we set the tone for authentic trust and ongoing exchanges.    

When we look at relationships as two-way, we can see that both people benefit. 

Professional networking is no different. Focus on creating two-way relationships and it won’t feel dirty. You likely will realize professional networking is not difficult and actually enhances your reach and influence.  

Why Professional Networking is Important

Do the words “reach” and “influence” make you pause and feel uncomfortable? When we apply these words to ourselves, many of us think we are projecting “power hungry” and “selfish.” It is quite the opposite.  

Ask yourself, “Why you do what you do?” Are you interested in helping people, providing for your family, living out your purpose, following your passions, or making the world a better place?  

Whatever your drivers, most likely it is positive and good for the world when you achieve your goals. Reach and influence are the tools you will use to deliver this benefit.  

Looking at your drivers and goals in this light, greater reach and influence are important. You have important work to do, and guess what—so do others! Build relationships with people who will help you make the impact you want, and in exchange, help them.  

Start and End with Gratitude

Just as you show appreciation to your family, friends, and neighbors, make sure you let your professional network know how much you appreciate them. If you actively are job searching or feel you don’t have anything to offer the other person, take a little time to think deeply about this, because you most definitely have something to offer them. It might not be immediate, so lead with gratitude and the relationship quickly will bloom.  

My challenge to you: Reach out to one person every day for the next week and strengthen your relationships by expressing your gratitude. 

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