Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.

The most ironic thing about mastering your ability to network with others is that many people try to learn to do it alone in front of their computers.

The best networkers are those who can quickly and accurately assess other people’s needs and figure out how to address those needs… skills developed by interacting and practicing with others.

(OK, OK. that’s not entirely true. Part of how you improve your dealings with others is to improve your self-awareness and comfort with yourself.)

But in yet another ironic twist, you can probably learn more about yourself, faster by hanging around other people than hanging out alone, meditating. Why? Because people are born self-delusional. Our egos make liars out of all of us. (Proof: study after study confirms the “Lake Woebegon” effect, where about 85% of people see themselves as above average—a statistical and definitional impossibility. For the record, only 50% of any group can be above average.) Hanging out with others will provide you with the feedback you need to pierce your self-delusions and figure out how others see you, which will give you a pretty big clue as to who you are.

But wait! Shouldn’t you not care what others think of you? Ultimately, yes, but since you need them to accept you, it helps to be accepted for who you are. And, so, if their feedback is off, then you know that the image you project does not match the image they have of you. So, you change your behavior. Or acknowledge that maybe you’re self-delusional. Either one is good.

I’ve had clients tell me that implementing this practice makes them worry about becoming politicians. They don’t want to be so attuned to what others think of them. To which I say, that’s right. You don’t care what others think of you. But you care a lot about what you can learn from their feedback about how you are projecting yourself and whether or not your ego is lying to you. (Ever watch American Idol and think to yourself, “Honey, it’s great you believe in yourself, but you really, really should listen to Simon on this one… and get a day job?”) Listening for feedback and processing it will improve your self-awareness, improve your comfort with yourself, align your self-image with the image you project, and help you network more successfully for jobs that are good matches for your abilities.

So get out there and mix it up with folks! You might be surprised at what you learn…

(PS—Yeah, I know you can socialize online. But since you’re considering taking this course, I’m going to assume a level of online aptitude. I want you ready for when you meet your prospective employer face-to-face.)


  1. Take a sheet of paper and put a line down the middle, top to bottom, and another line about ½ an inch in from the right margin, also top to bottom. Across the top of the left column, write, “If I were…” Start writing. Fill that column top to bottom with things that you would like to believe are true about yourself. For instance, my list might include:
    -a good consultant
    -a good salesman
    -a good writer
    -a good husband
    (You can take your time with this and do it over multiple sittings.)
  2. Atop the big middle column, write, “…then people would…” and fill this column with how other people would act around you if the item in the left column were true. For example, my list might look like this:

    If I were… …people would know it because…
    -a good consultant …Clients would not hesitate to write LinkedIn recs when asked.
    -a good salesman …people would be buying my services.
    -a good writer …people would be recommending my books and blogs to others.
    -a good husband …my wife would be completely at ease.

  3. In the final column, put the header “% True” and then assign a value to how much reality matches what you think should be true. This part is the tough part, and I recommend you do it privately at first. See the example below. What you will find is that you can quickly see the next step in your development evolution:

    If I were… …people would know it because… % True
    -a good consultant …Clients would not hesitate to write LinkedIn recs when asked. ?% true
    -a good salesman …people would be buying my services. ?% true
    -a good writer …people would be recommending my books and blogs to others. ?% true
    -a good husband …my wife would be completely at ease. ?% true

  4. Pick one or two of the items from your list to focus on. On a different sheet of paper, write down why you think there is a gap in the “% True” column—in other words, write down why you think you are not at 100% True. Identify one or two specific behaviors that you think, if you were to change them, could positively impact your ability in those areas. Make the change, and then watch how people treat you when you engage with them. Use the feedback to improve your self-awareness and self-comfort.
  5. Surprise bonus! If you do this exercise, you will have improved the way you network with others without ever consciously thinking about networking. For you introverts out there, that’s a pretty sweet deal, wouldn’t you say?!

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8 responses to “Networking”

  1. Beverly Lorig says:

    Had to read this a couple of times to get to the point you wanted me to see.
    Perhaps enhance with the full chart, include percentages, include your chosenstatements for improvement and the steps to be taken. In other words, complete the picture. For those who are quickly reading (!skimming!) the steps will not be obvious. Or perhaps, I am just really slow.

  2. Ella says:

    Only 50% of people can be above the median, but there might be other definitions of average.

    If you imagine that ‘intelligence’ is something that you can have various quantities of that can be measured in some way other than my ranking you in the population, something you could put a number on, then it’s very easy to imagine distributions where 85% of the population has an above-the-mean level of intelligence.

    So perhaps this could also be a fact about how people conceptualize what intelligence is, and how they imagine it varies across the population.

  3. Jason Seiden says:

    Ella, you’re too kind. The studies that show (consistently) that people overestimate themselves ask people to rate their own performance *on a given scale.*

    Studies correct for the idea that there may be multiple interpretations of, say, intelligence, by defining specifically the scale on which they want people to consider themselves.

    When I do exec assessments, I do this myself. I break intelligence down into factual and conceptual thinking skills. Within those two buckets, I break the concept of intelligence down further. And what I’m saying is that at the most granular level—be it problem solving, time management, strategic thinking, analytic ability, synthesis skills, creative thinking, business awareness, math skills, or what have you—whichever scale we pick, people will overestimate themselves.

    Your theory is a good one—but one that the science has corrected for.

  4. Ella says:

    Thanks for the extra information. Actually the post inspired me to look up the Lake Woebegon effect and find out what I said was wrong. But I had already posted my comment! :)

    I’ve heard of it going the other way though. In mathematics boys supposedly tend to overrate their abilities but girls underrate theirs, and it varies with all the cultural factors you can imagine. Unfortunately I think this leads girls to avoid mathematics and perpetuate the stereotype that they aren’t good at it because being good at mathematics takes effort.

    In any case you’re right – people aren’t very good at accurate self-assessment.

  5. Jason Seiden says:

    I wish more women would enter math and science—they *are* good at it.

    There was a great article a few years ago in the New Yorker or the NYTimes magazine on the problems US schools have teaching math… I can’t find it now. It was great; the article suggested that we don’t encourage creativity in math the way we do with writing. As a result, students never even think to go beyond the basics.


  6. Brian says:

    Wouldn’t it be that only 49% could be above average since 50% is exactly average? So in order to be above average you would need to be at least 1 point above it?

  7. Thomas says:

    Maybe I don’t fully grasp the exercise, but I don’t completely see the connection between this exercise and improving my ability to network with people. I completed this assignment more as a strengths/weaknesses chart. My weaknesses scored lower than my strengths in the third column. In that manner, I see how knowing your strengths and weaknesses can improve your self-awareness and thus improving how well you can “sell” yourself to a potential employer.

    Could you help clarify this for me Mr. Seiden. I appreciate your help!

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