[05.25.09]
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9 Ways To Bruise A Networking Relationship

This post is about managing (and avoiding the bruising of) your personal networking relationships.

personal networking relationships

In a recent post, I shared 11 Keys To Successful Job Search Networking.  You see, someone in my network knocked my socks off and, as a result, has me looking for extra ways to help.

So, as you might expect, there are those who have NOT knocked my socks off. In fact, their actions left me wanting to double knot the shoe laces. Bad people? No, not at all. Maybe lazy. Or perhaps, just perhaps, these folks had never been in positive personal networking relationships before. One in which people give first – not as a result of being helped in advance.
Which brings me to a point I’ve been wanting to make for a few weeks now. There’s a term out there (now adapted for networking) which I really want to adjust. The term?

Pay It Forward

Now, you may think me a bit unfortunate for picking on a few simple and inspirational words.  But these words assume one thing that I’d like to challenge.

It assumes you have to be helped before you can help others.

Not true, of course.  In fact, some of the best networking happens to others before they even know what hit them.  So, don’t wait for inspiration.  Don’t wait for help.  Take action when an idea strikes. Especially if that action is a selfless one.

So, from now on, just give.

Now back to our story . . . 9 Ways To Bruise A Networking Relationship.
My son plays Little League baseball and I am the classic parent volunteer.  I’ve managed teams and have been a member of the board of directors.  But probably my biggest commitment has been umpiring. One thing you need to know about this job?  Little League is a place where umpire bruises are more common than base hits.  Or so it seems.
Most of the bruises come from foul balls (accident), pitches glancing off the catcher’s glove (accident), miscommunication (a fastball when the catcher was expecting a curveball) and a pitch that hits nothing on the way to the plate except, at the last second, the soft underbelly of the umpire (slow/unskilled catcher).  And, yes, it hurts.
Just last week, a fastball directly to the forehead got me thinking about this idea . . .
So in networking, as in Little League baseball, there are plenty of examples of how bruising happens. And, as I said earlier, there are fairly innocent causes for poor networking.  But it doesn’t matter the cause.  The result is a damaged relationship and a drop off in critical networking support.
In my experience, there are three types . . .
(A)  An accident
(B)  A miscommunication
(C)  A lack of skill or experience
And if you avoid these mistakes while looking for ways to emulate Staci (see the link referenced at the top), you will find good things happening in your networking relationships.

9 Ways To Bruise Personal Networking Relationships

1. Ask for more than you deserve

So I just met you and you want what?  My three best recruiters?  But I hardly know you!  If you ask for help that stretches beyond your relationship, you put your new networking contact at risk.  If you are not sure, it’s OK to ask.  But don’t assume.

2. Forget to follow-up

After our first meeting I send you the name of someone I know in one of your target companies.  I even send your resume to that person with a light suggestion that they give you proper consideration.  You do not even bother to let me know you received the e-mail.  And you don’t call the company contact. You have taken my time and the time of my network.  Not good.

3. Disregard a reciprocal request

We are networking together as job seekers.  I provide a few ideas and names of folks you should contact.  I did this within a few days of our meeting.  Oh, and I was hoping you could e-mail the contact information of someone in your network.  You don’t.  You force me to ask again. And perhaps again.

4. Forget to ask:  “How can I help you”

Never assume a one-way relationship.  And do not assume that your help is unwanted.  Until you ask, you never know.  And even if the help isn’t needed now, it may be needed down the road.  And your offer should stand as an ongoing one.

5. Don’t say “thank you”

Say it that day.  Say it each time.  Say it in a follow-up e-mail.  Say it with a gift card.  Just say it. Gratitude feels good to the giver.  It reinforces the effort and promotes more of it.  And, frankly, it’s not just the right thing to do . . . it’s expected.

6. Misrepresent your relationship

So, we just met and I got your resume into a hiring manager and that, in turn, resulted in a phone interview.  Great!  Now what do you say when asked:  “How do you know Tim?”  Please be honest.  If you try to create a history where one does not exist, you can create issues for both of us.

7. Over-use a contact or referral

A different example here.  I give you the name of a recruiter that often has searches in your industry and at your level.  I did this because I thought YOU were a good fit.  Not 10 other people you know.  By sending your friends the name of my recruiter contact, you could harm my relationship with them as well as fill up their in box with candidates that do not fit.

8. Make a new networking contact work too hard

Remember how Staci made it so easy for me to meet with her?  She made the drive.  She let me pick the time based on my schedule.  So the opposite looks like this: You are requesting a meeting and ask me to drive 20 minutes.  On a day that isn’t ideal for me.  I may go but I won’t like it.  And I may not be as warm and welcoming as a result.  I really do want to help, but remember, if you are out of work you have time on your side.  Your contact may not.

9.  Assume people will help you because you need it

The reality is that there are hundreds of people to help and not enough folks willing to do it.  So, how do the people with the will and time to help decide who to spend time with?  They listen to the voices of those who are asking. They see it in their eyes. They look for an authentic glimmer that says: I have a need right now.  I’m open to your ideas as to how I can network into a new opportunity.  Oh, and I’m willing to give back.
So, “why 9?” you ask.
Well, I penalized this list by 2 (from the “11 keys”) due to its focus on the negative aspects. I also wanted you to tell me your #10.  What have you seen out there?  What did I miss and how can your experience help one of your fellow readers?
So, tell us.  But be careful.

Some of us bruise easily.

Thanks Kelly Teague for the photo via Flickr.


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Career Networking

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