Networking Is Not a Dirty Word

Networking Is Not a Dirty Word

Sometimes when I’m working with a client who is exploring a career change, I’ll ask her about folks in her network who might be able to give her some insight into a field she is considering. And about half the time, the client will say, “Well, I’m not very good at networking. I don’t like going to events and talking to strangers, and there’s something that feels kind of slimy about it—like I just want to get something from the people I’m meeting.” But I think that’s the wrong way to think about networking. Networking is really about building relationships.

The Challenges of Working From Home

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I’ve always done some of my work at home, but working primarily from home is a new experience for me. In my coaching practice, I’ve been amazed at the sheer number of my clients who are able to work remotely from home thanks to modern technology.

If you work from home, I don’t have to tell you about the pleasures including being able to work in my most comfortable clothes if I feel like it, choosing my own hours (at least some of the time), and working from my back porch when the weather is good.

Working from home comes with its challenges though. Some of those are familiar. Our homes are filled with temptations to procrastinate. Laundry or gardening or scrubbing the toilet can easily become a distraction from our work. When I’m struggling to write a blog post, I often give in to the temptation to water the plants or brush the cat. And working from home can be lonely and isolating.

Lately I’ve become acutely aware of one of the pitfalls of work-from-home isolation. A couple of my clients who have worked remotely for years have been struggling with job searches. One of the biggest reasons that both struggle is that they no longer have strong professional networks. Without these networks, it is harder for them to learn about potential career opportunities. One client explained that she didn’t even feel like she knew how her field—a technology-related job—had evolved because she had been so isolated from colleagues in her field for so long. Some of my work with these clients has been focused on developing strategies for them for rebuilding their professional networks.

Their experiences have been a cautionary tale for me, and I’m thinking mindfully and strategically about how to maintain and expand my circle of professional colleagues.

What about you? Do you have any strategies for maintaining professional contacts—whether you work from home or in an office?