I’ve been thinking a lot about networking lately. I’ve even had spontaneous conversations with friends about it. Now more than ever networking is an essential job search tool. So I decided to do some special posts on the subject over the next few months covering various aspects of networking, with the focus on how to make it work better for you.
Today I’d like to talk a little about what I consider one of the cardinal career sins: hit-and-run networking.
What Do I Mean By Hit-and-Run Networking?
First…some definitions of hit and run, according to Wikipedia:
- Hit and run (vehicular) is the crime of failing to stop and identify oneself after a vehicular collision.
- Hit and run (baseball) is a baseball play in which runners are in motion before the ball is hit.
In both cases, someone is off and running before the outcome is fully known, with only his or her own goals (and needs) in mind. Of course, vehicular hit and run comes with both moral and legal ramifications. Even in baseball, this potentially great strategic play runs the risk of being called a crime – especially when it turns into a double play.
But when it comes to job search and career building, hit-and-run networking is a rotten strategy all around. Smart networking is not only about the job you need; it’s about creating a foundation of support for the rest of your career.
The most powerful networking happens when your focus is NOT what you want right now, but instead on building relationships – lasting relationships that will endure for years to come. Even if you never see a person again, you get the best overall results when you relate to each and every contact with this same long-term approach.
Networking With More Than a “Me Me Me” Focus
Unfortunately, I’ve seen job seekers network with the narrow focus of “just get me to a job already” (certainly understandable when you have rent to pay). But it takes little extra effort to build lasting networks by approaching all your networking with the attitude of “I’m interested in learning about you and from you.” When people like you and see you as someone who is not just about the me and now, you have a much better chance of them remembering you – and wanting to help – both now and down the road.
But if you practice hit-and-run networking, approaching each person you meet with the goal of getting something from them as quickly as possible and moving on (especially if you see nothing there), that just leaves a bad taste that can even come back to bite you. More than once I’ve heard about people who later wind up in a role to hire or influence the hiring decision…and they remember hit-and-run folks they met along the way!
Your best bet?
- Be sincere.
- Ask good questions.
- Learn about the people.
- Be open to what they have to teach you.
- Ask for suggestions of other people to connect to.
- Ask if you may stay in touch.
Most of all, leave them feeling good about you as a person (not just as a job seeker) and let them know their efforts are sincerely appreciated. And please don’t forget thank-you or follow-up notes, even if it was only a phone contact.
Building Your Future Support Network
It’s important to remember…relationships you build now and throughout your career can make all the difference. Odds are not every single person you meet will be able to help you directly, but if you stay in touch (especially those you connect with most), over time they can become part of a deep, extended network, providing ongoing support and opening you up to their own extended network too. Even connections from long long ago, if done right, can prove helpful when you really need them.
And don’t forget…help and generosity flow in more than one direction!