A friend and I had the chance to catch up over lunch last week and I’m so glad that we did. She recently started working in a new position that was created for her based on my recommendation to both the company in creating the position and to her in suggesting that she was the perfect fit for the role. I’m happy and relieved to report that she loves the new role and that I successfully made a match for both her and the company.
I’ve also had the privilege of connecting my current employer with my alma mater in establishing an internship program. On the same day as the luncheon above I connected with our HR department and discovered that my introductions led to a group of students visiting our firm to talk about internships last week. Both parties enjoyed the introductions and next steps are underway.
I approach introductions with caution for many reasons and I love it when I can be part of the process in lining up qualified people with great opportunities.
There are some key elements to working well with networkers to realize the desired outcomes.
Those of us who are well-networked have invested a great deal of time, effort and resources to build our network. We utilize it when needed on behalf of ourselves and, occasionally at our discretion, we may use it on behalf of others. We want our network credibility to at least remain intact and, ideally, we want it to grow through credible introductions and recommendations.
We’ve built that network based on a number of things including, but not limited to:
- Work Performance
- Exceptional Results
- Shared Experiences
- Shared Interests
- Referrals from other trusted network resources
All of these take considerable trust, effort and time to build, to maintain and to grow.
Often, strong networkers are asked to share “how they did it” with the “it” being their description of their network. I know some networkers who are truly superb and in every case, including my own, the secret of “how” they did “it” was by all those bulleted points above. They took the time, put in the effort and built a network that serves their needs. In almost every case those needs are customized for them.
Networkers know their network has value and we often want to help and to be of service as it adds value to the network. Plainly stated – by helping others we help build the value of our own network, so there is a huge element of self-serving here.
We generally trust the intention of those asking for assistance; however, the prep work done by those who ask often tells us much more about their intention than many may realize.
Recently and on multiple occasions, I’ve been asked for help that I simply had to push back on.
- One person sent me an email and asked me to contact 30+ people in my network on their behalf to establish a connection with them so that person could pitch them on their services. (!?!?)
- Another said they were looking for a job in sales and marketing. I don’t know of a broader question than that. It’s almost like saying, “Help, I need a job.”
- Another contact asked for help in finding a sales role. “Help, I need a job. Get it for me.”
- Someone asked for help in finding a job in social media. “Help, I need a job and I want you to tell your social media network about it.”
I each case I sincerely wanted to help, but their first question did little to help me in assisting them.
My reactions were varied and I responded to them asking clarifying questions.:
- To this person I simply pushed back asking for them to follow the process for introductions via LinkedIn rather than asking me to do the laborious job of contacting these targeted individuals for them.
- You’re looking for a sales job? In what industries? Product or services? What level of expertise do you have and how many years of successful selling do you have? Would you consider moving? What kind of compensation are you expecting?
- Social media. Social media is a fast-paced, maturing industry. What do you have to offer in the space? Do you want to work in an agency or within a firm? Doing strategy work, content creation, content promotion, research, BI, analytics, engagement, branding, and the list goes on.
Networkers will often ask some questions just to see if the person will put in the work to respond.
Would you believe that only one of those mentioned above responded at all? What does this tell me about their intention? It tells me that they want me to do the work for them and I simply don’t have the time.
Don’t underestimate the value of preparation before asking for help from someone in utilizing their network contacts. Just as one would prep for an interview, prepare to talk specifics about the request.
So many of these have come my way lately that I finally had to blog about the topic.
- Networkers, by nature, build custom networks that serve their interests
- Be well-prepared in asking for help
- Be clear about the request
- Demonstrate that some thought into what is being asking for
- Don’t ask the Networker to do the hard part, like the home work
- Don’t take offense if they push back with questions
- Respond to their questions – good networkers will ask clarifications for two primary reasons:
- To keep their network strong they use questions as a filter
- To see if and how the requestor will take a moment to do the work and respond before the networker will invest their time into helping someone