The True Art of Networking

I consider myself a strong networker…….meaning I give as much or more back to my network than I ever ask for or receive.

I am often asked to conduct networking 101 sessions for corporate HR and recruitment teams and provide one-on-one coaching to business leaders on the art of networking.  The number one rule I always spend the most time speaking about is to never take advantage of your network and never make it a one-sided relationship.  You can’t be selfish when you venture into the world of networking.  You can’t go into a networking relationship without understanding that it takes work on both sides of the relationship to make it work.  The beauty of a great network is that they are there for you when you need assistance…….but only if you have been there for them when they needed you.  Networking has to be a win-win relationship.

Over the years I can think of so many people who have approached me and asked for my time to help them with something they need.  It might be to look at their resume and give career advice, provide them with interviewing coaching, introduce them to someone in my valued network or provide insight into a challenge they face within their current role.  I will always go out of my way for my network as I know first hand on how supportive and valuable a great network can be especially over the past year.  The fact that so many people in my network take time out of their busy days to take an interest in something important to me speaks volumes as to the benefits of building and supporting a great network.

Unfortunately on the flip side, I have also come across many people trying to take advantage of our networking relationship.  It is always disappointing to come across these individuals within your network who you only hear from when they need your help with something important to them and these same people never even have the courtesy to respond to you when you reach out to them.  Maybe I am just too trusting a person and try to look for the good in everyone but it shocks me when these people continue to ask for my help and advice.

There is one person I hear from every 3 years when she is unhappy in her job.  She is now at a VP level and I in the past I have always ensured I was there to support her with what she needed from me.  Twice over the past 5 years I have actually introduced her to the person who gave her a job…..so I definitely feel I have done a great job in supporting her the best I can.  The sad thing is that over the past few years whenever I have sent her an email I have never heard back from her.  So this past week when she reached out to me for help after not hearing from her since 2009 when I helped her with her career without any business interests for me, I thought “to hell with this person……..she doesn’t deserve to be in my network”.  It’s always a tough call especially when you run a small business and you always think there might be some business to gain from the relationship……..but my experience has tought me people like this will always tease you with the potential but never deliver so it’s not worth it.

My response to her was simply:

“Great to hear from you – it’s been about 3 years since we last spoke when you joined ABC company.  Unfortunately my time is at a premium these days and I am working closely with a number of great people in my network on various initiatives so am not able to provide you with the support you need.  All the best to you with your next venture.”

I guess I could have been a bit more punishing with my words but that’s just not me.  For someone like her who always had access to me for support, I hope she has enough self-awareness to realize her mistake……although I wouldn’t put money on that myself.

The moral of the story…….ensure you support your network as much as your network supports you.

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Simon Parkin is the Practice Leader for Recruitment and Talent Management at The Talent Company – www.thetalent.co     Simon is recognized as a global thought leader in the acquisition and management of top talent and has successfully transformed the Talent function for organizations of all sizes. Simon works closely with clients to build, develop and innovate their Recruitment, Talent and HR functions. He is a former global leader of Recruitment and Talent for a Fortune 100 company. Simon is a featured speaker at a number of HR and Recruitment conferences across North America and an author of many acclaimed articles on innovative Recruitment, Talent and HR trends and best practices.  Simon’s full profile can be found at http://ca.linkedin.com/in/simonparkin1

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2 Responses to “The True Art of Networking”

  1. Hi Simon
    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. In fact, I secretly think I may have even received the same message from the same individual and had a similar reaction. I certainly received an all person bulletin recently from someone who materialises every 2-3 years only to say (paraphrasing) “Hey (insert name here), I’m looking for a new job for my brilliant self. Do you know of any fantastic new opportunities for me?” and I thought WTF! Delete.

    I would add to your thoughts – don’t just be available when your network needs you. Its important to stay connected to the people you know on a semi-regular basis for no other reason than ‘keeping in touch’. We all get busy, and life moves on at a tremendous pace, but if you occasionally wonder how ‘so and so’ is doing, pick up the phone, send them an email and suggest you get together. Its more than okay to simply say “I was just wondering how you are getting on” and in my experience – those are the moments when your network becomes your networth.

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