There are lots of misconceptions about networking that tend to play into your natural reticence to promote yourself. Here are some we’ve touched on briefly before:
Networking is only for outgoing extroverts. Certainly it is easier and more natural for the extroverted, but the benefits of creating a network are available to everyone. You will want to find a networking style that is comfortable to you. For some people, networking in person at events such as conferences or workshops is easy. For others, setting up an initial meeting with an introductory letter is more comfortable. Although we know that information interviews can be set up in a number of ways - from dropping-in in person to writing or calling in advance - you should use the method which is most natural for you (see the special section on Networking for Shy Professionals).
Information Interviewers are annoying. In fact, most people love to give advice and to offer help. Even the highest ranking executive likes to talk about how they got started and what it takes to succeed. Asking someone for help can make them feel invested in your future success.
Networking is only for job seekers. Definitely not. There are lots of reasons to interview for information well in advance of a job search. These might include research related to your professional school work, finding ways to help in your community or, at the end of your career, discovering what comes next.
Networking is only for people with lots of connections. As you will see in the Getting Started section, there are lots of ways of finding people to connect to, even if you don’t have any personal connections to start with. Often, your strongest contacts will be those you do not know well. This is the phenomenon of "the strength of weak ties" which has been studied by a number of sociologists. These studies found that acquaintances are more likely than friends or family to give individuals direct information or recommend them for opportunities.
NETWORKING IS NOT ASKING FOR A JOB
You are conducting an information interview gather information not to look for a job. Sure, eventually you may apply for a position with this firm but, when networking, you are seeking advice on planning your career. When you ask for a job, there are only two possible responses: “Yes, I have a job opening or (more likely) no, I don’t have a job opening; now.” If you simply ask for a job, you may never get to the valuable information this contact could have provided to you, nor will they learn more about you.