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One Way Networking–Is This What Networking Is About?

by David Brock on December 4th, 2007

I just read in interesting article in the Wall Street Journal: How To Network Without Sabotaging Your Own Job Hunt. It discusses a number of issues very appropriate to effective networking.

There are many people in my close networks who see value in staying connected. We talk or email each other, we exchange ideas, we continue to look for things of interest to each other. These are effective relationships that I value and invest in.

There are those other people “in my network.” These are people who I may have tried to build a relationship with, who for various reasons have been unresponsive to the communication. However, out of the blue, I get communications from them, and always, it is a plea for help: “I’ve lost my job, can you help me?” “I need funding for a new company, will you invest in the company?” The list goes on.

I am confused by the expectation of people who spurn communications and contact until they need something. In addition to their request for help, they seldom ask about me. When they ask, it is always nominal, because their concern is about themselves. I find it difficult to invest in those people.

Finally, there are those who are going after quantity, seeing the number of connections or friends they have in LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace or others as a competition. “He who has the most listed wins.”

On a daily basis, I get people asking me to join their network. Many come from people I have never met and do not know how they reached me. Some come from people who I have encountered. For each, I always respond: “I would be delighted to join your network and have you join my network. Can we arrange to speak soon so that we can get to know each other and how we might help each other out?” On over 90% of those, I get no response, yet I get reminders to join their network or other pleas to join.

Here, I have a criticism to the suppliers of these tools. I think their tools need to be more focused and purposeful in developing networks. People should think and value those they invite. Instead, they offer to send invitations to everyone in your Outlook Address Book. My Outlook Address Book captures many addresses of people I do not know, but are on the same distribution I am on. This automated processing of networks reinforces the mentality of quantity over quality.

The Wall Street Journal Article offers a few nice sound bites:

  • Networking is supposed to be mutually beneficial.
  • Giving back is important.
  • Bothering contacts excessively also can weaken networking efforts.

Read the article. Think about it. I encourage everyone to build networks that create value and quality for everyone involved.

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