Imagine yourself at a cocktail party with your wife/partner/husband. People are mingling actively. Talking and moving on to different people after a few minutes.
Someone walks over to the two of you and says they are friends of the host. You nod and ask a few polite questions.
“How do you know our host?”
“What do you do?”
“Have you done it for very long?”
And suddenly it happens.
They ask, “Can I borrow $50.”
You’re taken aback, make an excuse for why you won’t lend them $50 and then move on to chat with someone else. As you speak with that person and several others, your disturbance about being asked for money pervades conversations with others and actually keeps you up a night or two later.
“I hardly know them and they asked for money,” you think before eventually going to sleep.
Isn’t this how most people network?
You call or email someone. Maybe you name drop someone; maybe you don’t. Within 5 minutes, you’re asking whether this stranger or old acquaintance knows someone and can recommend you for a job.
Who would refer you? You’re like the guy asking for $50 believing that a stranger will reach into their wallet and give you money.
It’s why I tell people that networking is really about meeting or being introduced to a stranger and building a relationship where when you need one another you are willing to help and support one another. It isn’t about exchanging cards at the networking even and saying, “Call me if you hear something.” It’s about developing a relationship with that person over time.
Some of you may know that I moved to Asheville, North Carolina several years ago from the New York area. I belong to an international men’s organization and there is a chapter in town; I started to attend regular Wednesday night meetings with some of the men.
Recently, one of them reported that he was having surgery to remove a tumor in his back; he’s self-employed and was going to be incapacitated for several weeks and rehabbing for quite a long time.
After surgery, he put out a request for videos to borrow while rehabbing. A meal train was set up for dinners to be delivered to him and his family.
I was very willing to help and scheduled myself to visit him at rehab several times and deliver dinner to he and his family once out.
That’s the difference– a relationship had built up.
If you’re working, now is the time to network and build up the relationship over time.
If you are looking for work and have been told that networking is the way to find work, be patient, not desperate when you network. Listen and become a friend before you start asking for leads. Help the other person and they will want to help you.
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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a recruiter for more than 40 years.
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