Question: Is it better to jump into networking with an unpolished or unclear sense of identity and purpose or hang back and observe until you feel sure of what to say and how to say it?
And my answer is….jump in!
But jump in knowing that some of the best networking comes from listening and understanding that your networking needs (and contributions) will evolve with your identity and purpose. A personal example. When I decided to change careers in 2001/2002 from the practice of law to the management side of a law firm I needed to discover what those jobs were and which ones I’d be interested in (as well as being qualified for). My first networking activity was to research. From there, my networking activities lead to informational interviews for the sole purpose of discovering what roles were out there (and what they really involved). Once I’d digested that information and assessed my personal goals (or purpose), I refined my networking approach to target on particular roles. Networking is an on-going and dynamic process of identifying needs (your purpose), integrating information (from listening and engaging in conversation) and adapting networking approaches based on the new information and reassessing your needs.