There’s an interesting article over at the Harvard Business Review, “When Networking, Being Yourself Really Does Work.” It covers a wide array of networking opportunities, from a job fair to LinkedIn. “Across all these situations, one thing is likely to be the same: You probably feel anxious and uncertain about how best to add these people to your network.”

Anxiety and uncertainty are normal in situations where you are approaching someone you don’t know. If it’s someone who could help your career or who you consider an ideal prospect, it can feel like the stakes are especially high to make a good first impression–which only adds to the anxiety.

It’s also understandable to follow the common advice to research your target and try to present yourself as their ideal (fill-in-the-blank). However, if you stop and picture what happens when you’ve achieved the desired outcome, the advice starts to look a little murky.

If you are presenting a persona that is not you, and you are successful in making the connection you seek, then what? Can you keep it up forever? If the target is a potential customer, and you’ve skillfully (but falsely) led them to believe you are their perfect vendor, there’s nothing but trouble ahead.

The whole article is worth a read, and the advice to “be yourself” is sound in every situation, from looking for love to shopping for a mentor. And if that person you are trying to project is actually the person you want to be, you’d be wise to become that person before making your pitch.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself–everyone else is already taken.”

Send me an email at if you’re thinking about upping your networking game, and we can set up a time to talk.

photo credit: exceptinsects Spiderweb via photopin (license)