“I feel guilty about networking.” (Insert lots of people who have said this to me.)

“Why?”

“Because it doesn’t feel like it’s an honest way to get a job.” (Most common answer.)

Bill recently wrote a post about the opportunity for self-discovery in networking, but some people never even pursue the primary purpose – a connection to a new job opportunity – because they feel too guilty to benefit.

My off-the-cuff response is, “But that’s the way it’s done.” I absolve networking because everyone else is doing it. I don’t address that others equally intelligent and hardworking will be at a disadvantage because they didn’t go to the right school or have connected friends and family. I don’t address that networking may result in one person getting a job that someone else needs more. I don’t address that the opportunity gap, which was getting smaller in the U.S. from the mid-1880s to the 1970s (with the shift to manufacturing from farming, the expansion of education, and laws protecting women and minorities), is beginning to widen. With 48% of job seekers finding work through networking, family of origin matters. So should we guilty about networking?

No, you can’t feel guilty about getting a job in place of the person you’ll never know and who never applied because the job was not published. But you can acknowledge your advantages and not minimize their benefit. You can be gracious in your successes, even those you created on your own. (24% of people obtain jobs through cold-calling.) And you can choose what you offer back.