I’ve had an interesting on-going dialog this week with one of my job-seeking clients about her challenges with networking. Here’s a short part of the go-between:

Client: Hey JT, I was just thinking. What is your take on being vulnerable during networking, or when doing info interviews? I feel like I have a big problem with being vulnerable. I look at it as a weakness and it doesn’t come naturally to me. But, sometimes I feel if I could be vulnerable, maybe people could relate with me. Does that make sense?

Me: I think you need to be objective, not vulnerable. It’s important to be able to say, “I’ve got skills and knoweledge gaps I want to improve upon.” Or, “I’ve come to recognize I need more information and experience in this area.” But, I wouldn’t be self-deprecating and say, “I know I’m not smart enough for this,” or “I’m sure I’m not qualified to be considered for this,” because phrasing it this way implies defeat or defect. If vulnerability means lowering your opinion of yourself, then you could risk coming across as needy – the very thing you don’t want to do! But, if vulnerability means being fair and honest about your abillities, and then opening up to someone and asking for help as a way to improve them, then I think that’s a smart move. You have to believe in yourself and your ability to experience, learn, and grow.

Client: Hmmm… Anyone who is successful in their career, has likely had help from someone else, right? I think it’s networking. It’s a hard skill to master. I hate to admit this – but, in my mind I feel weak when I ask for someone’s help. It’s so hard for me to do. The networking approach you’ve taught me is a revelation in itself. It’s definitely a disruptive process. I have been analyzing myself and I think it’s hard for me to depend on others, especially when I know I can’t give them anything in return right now. But, I can see this networking approach working. I am feeling less and less bad about connecting with people and asking for help.

Me: Good – you shouldn’t feel bad. It’s so important that we learn to ask for help – and feel okay about it! You will “job-it-forward” at some point in the future and repay their kindness. You know you will – so keep that in mind as you are reaching out.

How do you ask for help? (And feel okay with it.)

I think many of us can appreciate where this job seeker is coming from. Don’t we all want to find a way not to appear needy when asking for help? Especially, when we know the help is what we need to succeed.

  • What do you do to justify asking for help?
  • Do you think that there is a “right” and “wrong” way to be vulnerable in networking?

P.S. – First time reading my posts? Thanks for taking the time to stop by! Not only do I write for Linkedin, but I’m also founder of a popular career advice site,CAREEREALISM,and currently run the career coaching program,CareerHMO. I hope you’ll check them both out!