10 Networking No-No's
Another year, more networking stories! My inbox fills up with them at least once a week. Here are ten latest Networking No-Nos, for savvy networkers to avoid (or cringe over, when these Don'ts are perpetrated on us):
1. Don't call a person you don't know with the explanation "Susan Smith suggested that we meet" if Susan suggested no such thing.
This tactic is called Introduction Theft. If Susan really told you to meet Pete or Henry or Jorge, that's great. If you merely heard that Susan is friends with Pete or Henry or Jorge and decided to cover the last mile and make the connection on your own, you've violated a networking protocol.
The last thing Susan needs is to hear from Jorge, asking "Did you tell that lady to call me?" when in fact Susan didn't. In that case, would you expect Susan to lie on your behalf?
Friends don't ask friends to lie for them, so don't do it.
2. Don't contact a stranger for networking purposes and lay out your time and travel requirements.
It's both flabbergasting and galling for a busy person to open an email message that says "I heard you could help me in my job search. We know Carlo, Rajiv and Melissa in common. Shall we meet for lunch? How about the 20th, at Appleby's?" That's presumptuous.
The first question of a new prospective networking contact is "Would it be convenient for you to meet me, ever?" Time and place follow if your target person is game to share his time with you at all. Don't jump the gun.
3. Don't bring a resume to lunch or coffee without asking permission to do so.
I'm not a big fan of highly-directed, "this networking coffee or lunch is all about my job-search" networking.
Good networking balances time and focus between two people who both have stories and issues to share. If you're meeting a new person merely to pick his or her brain for your job-search needs, you should be paying him or her a consulting fee.
Instead, make the meeting about both of you, and look for ways to help your lunch- or coffee-mate with something on his or her plate.
A good way to signal "this coffee date is strictly about me" is to whip out your resume and ask your new acquaintance to read it. That's out of bounds.
If you have plans to share your paper resume over lunch or coffee, ask permission.
Better yet, describe your story verbally and don't turn your lunch into a uni-directional career-coaching session.
4. Don't meet a new person and immediately ask for an introduction.
When you meet a new contact for lunch or coffee, you're getting two incredibly valuable things - some of his or her time, and his or her attention.
Don't press your advantage by asking for introductions, too, unless your new pal has offered to make one or more of those for you.
That being said, you can and should jump on an overture like "If there's anyone in my LinkedIn network you'd like to meet, be sure to let me know" or "How can I help in your job search?"
"You can introduce me to someone among your colleagues or friends whom you think would be interested in my background, if you don't mind," is a good answer.
Be sure to emphasize that you value reciprocity (if you do, and I hope you do) and that you'll strive to help any new networker you meet as much as or more than you'll look for help with your own search.
5. Don't forget to pay for lunch or coffee.
A very important networking principle is one I call the Happy Life Rule. Anyone we reach out to, or are introduced to, must be presumed to be leading a happy life without benefit of knowing you. (Sounds crazy, but it's true.)
Therefore, we can't take the view that the opportunity to have lunch or coffee with you is a rare privilege for this busy person. It may tilt in the direction of an obligation, or it may be neutral, notwithstanding the chipper email message that says "I can't wait to meet you!"
You've got to pay for lunch or coffee if you made the overture. You've got to drive, too - don't suggest a meeting point halfway between your office in the city and your networking contact's office in the suburbs, thirty miles away. You go to him (or her).
6. Don't sic a friend on a brand-new acquaintance.
This is jarring: I get back to my office after a pleasant mid-morning coffee with a young job-seeker. My phone rings as I walk in, and a young voice says "I understand you met my friend Amy. Can you also have coffee with me?"
That's not cricket. Before you send a friend or colleague to any networker in your circle, ask permission.
7. Don't add a networker to your mailing list without asking if it's okay.
I love the idea of "Kara's Job-Search Newsletter" and I applaud folks who keep their networks posted.
Email newsletters are a sensitive topic. Don't add anyone to your mailing list without asking specifically if that's okay. The last thing you want to do is destroy the fragile bond of friendship you've built by spamming a new friend.
8. Don't forget to say, "Thanks."
If a new or old contact of yours makes an introduction, gets your resume in the right pile or helps you out in any way, acknowledge that help.
The worst "don't do this!" story I've ever heard in this department was the story of a young man who asked a new acquaintance for an introduction to the HR folks at a big department store. The young man was seeking a Buyer Trainee position.
A month later, after the introduction was made, the older businessperson checked in via email. "So, did you ever connect with Greta Marshall in the department store's HR department?" he asked. "I told Greta about you, and asked her to call you."
"Yeah, she called me," replied the young man, "and I had an interview, but I didn't get the job." Yikes! You didn't get the job - that's a shame.
The introduction still happened, and introductions are worth gold - so say thanks, regardless of the outcome.
9. Don't go too often to the well.
"Dear Sarah, we met last month and you were kind enough to give me some tips on my job search," says the message in Sarah's inbox. "Can we meet again, as I have a few more questions for you?" Sarah must say Nix to this well-intentioned but clumsy request.
A typical businessperson might have two or three new-networking spots available, per month. Don't lean too heavily on one or two members of your network. Spread the requests for support, help and advice around.
10. Don't forget people.
A senior-level job-seeker told me that he'd put his foot in his mouth via email not long before. "I got what looked like the strangest message in my inbox," he told me. "It was very familiar in its tone, and said 'Dear Alfred, I found this article and thought of you.' I wrote immediately back and asked to be removed from this spammer's mailing list. The lady replied and told me in the nicest possible way that she is a friend of my friend Alice, and that she and I had had coffee just six weeks before. I had completely forgotten who she was, and I was so embarrassed I sent her a case of wine."
The case of wine sounds okay, but save yourself embarassment instead by periodically checking over the list of networkers you've met in your travels. Stay up to date on each person's name, title and employer, to avoid confusion and hurt feelings down the road.
Of course, when you land in your next job, thank your network profusely for the support it's given you. People love happy endings!
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About this author:
Liz Ryan is Job-Hunt's Networking Contributor. Liz is a former Fortune 500 VP and 25-year veteran of corporate human resources departments. In addition, Liz is the author of Happy About Online Networking, moderator and coach of AskLizRyan and an internationally recognized expert on careers and the 21st century workplace. Find Liz on LinkedIn and on Google+.