This is the last of three related posts about networking. As I said in the first post, I’ve talked about networking in other posts, but it is so fundamental to the job search that it bears looking at from a number of angles.

These three posts relate to three serious mistakes people make when networking, mostly in trying to get other people to do their search for them. This does not work.

RULE #3: If you cause people to make a commitment to do something, they will not help you.

You are meeting with Mr. Big and things are going well, when all of a sudden he slaps himself on the forehead and says, “You know, you need to talk with my friend, Ralph—and I’ll set that up for you.”

Thanking God for causing Mr. Big to volunteer to do your job search for you, you beat a hasty retreat before he changes his mind.

But what will happen next? One of two things:

(1) As you leave, Mr. Big returns to his otherwise busy day and life. Within five minutes it has totally slipped his mind that he said he would contact Ralph. Days pass and you are not blessed with a call from Mr. Big. Finally you call him to follow up, his secretary tells him you’re on the phone, and he suddenly remembers to his horror that he committed to helping you. His response to his secretary? “Take a message.” This is just human nature taking over. Mr. Big, thinking fast, realizes that, if he can just get a few quiet minutes to himself, he can give Ralph a call, and you will never know that he hasn’t done what he said he would do. But when his secretary goes to take a message, does he call Ralph? No, he does not. He returns to what he was doing before he was interrupted. Days pass. No call from Mr. Big, so you summon up the courage to call again. Once again his secretary tells him you are on the phone, and once again Mr. Big responds with, “Take a message.” But now he knows that you know he didn’t do what he said he would do. He can’t speak to you without being embarrassed. There is a simple solution to this little problem. He will never speak to you again. You’ve lost.

OR:

(2) Upon further reflection following your departure, Mr. Big realizes there is no way that Ralph will want to speak with you. In the heat of the moment, in his desire to help, he has overstepped. He has committed his friend and fellow executive to a meeting that will cost him points in the relationship. Does he then call you and tell you he has made a mistake? He does not. He’s too embarrassed, and, busy executive that he is, the entire event soon recedes from his consciousness. He is reminded of it only when you call after several days to follow up. He immediately defaults to the avoidance behavior described above. You’ve lost.

Networking is all about building relationships and reducing the risk of the person with whom you are talking, not about getting leads and contacts. That said, leveraging relationships is an effective way to find employment, and on occasion, to create a job. But in order to leverage a relationship, you must first have one. This means you must devote time and energy to developing relationships. The wise do this over multiple meetings well before they need the leverage. The rest try to do it in five minutes when they needed the leverage yesterday.

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