One of the all-time most valuable commodities in any jobsearch is networking contacts. Hard won, easily lost, and enormously capable, these carefully honed gems can do more than any other thing to propel your career to greater levels.
But many people treat networking contacts more like dirt than the platinum they really are. Here’s how to avoid the cold shoulder and preserve your valuable networking contacts for the long haul.
Don’t make it all about the work
We’ve all seen that transparent “friend” who finds our number or email address only when he’s desperate, out of work, or in need of something we can do for him. And it only takes a few such needy, inconsiderate approaches before you just stop returning his calls. Don’t be like that guy. Call your contacts just to chat sometimes. Send a friendly email every once in a while just to say “How’s it going?” That way you’re not a total stranger when you really need their help.
Make sure you’re there to help your contacts when they need you. They did after all, do their best to do what they could for you, right? That’s the glue that holds the whole networking process together – they help you, and you owe them the same. Nothing ruins networking relationships faster than ignoring that rule.
When your networking contact gives you person to call or a company you might be interested in, follow up on it. Contact the person, look into the company, do what they suggest. Even if you don’t have a lot of faith in the idea, treat your contacts’ advice as important and worthy of your consideration. You’d be surprised at the chilling effect of having a contact ask a colleague “Hey, did my friend Joe call you?” and finding out that you chose to blow it off.
Be nice. Always.
The whole foundation for networking is to build relationships in which people genuinely want to help you. And how likely is that to happen when you act like a total goon toward your contacts? Not very. If you’re one of the many people these days who are apparently personality challenged, dig deep to find the best side of yourself. You’re looking for favors. Never forget that.
Make it easy for them to help you
Finally, don’t make it a struggle to be associated with you. Return calls. Pay for lunch. Meet contacts when and where they want. Do whatever you can to accommodate them and make it easy to help you. You ideally want to make them happy to be part of the process. Sure, there’s always the possibility they’ll help you out of obligation, pity, or just plain goodness of heart. But those things only go so far. If you make it a struggle to do anything for you, most people in our busy world will simply decline. Don’t give them good reason to.