The Polite Networker

It’s been a difficult and protracted economic downturn – with high levels of unemployment, a dearth of spending and pressure on those remaining inside companies to deliver results with fewer resources. With droves of talented individuals in transition – from entry level to C-suite — it’s been a time of reaching out and helping one another.

But a year after the major market meltdown, there is a high level of burnout and networking fatigue. Nonetheless, jobseekers must remain active and visible. And those inside companies and consulting organizations have an intense focus on finding and closing business.

Where do we go from here? Some suggestions for being polite and productive:

  • A key rule of networking is to be considerate of the other person’s time.
  • Offer information, insight or assistance as an opening gesture. Send someone a piece of business and you will be their friend forever!
  • If you want to meet someone in person, consider attending a program where they are speaking.
  • Be careful not to commit another person’s time or interest. Don’t deliver an action item via email! Avoid creating an assumption with a third party that someone will meet with them or do something for them by copying them on an email of “introduction.”
  • General “information meetings” are a thing of the past. Why ask for insight on something you could find on the Internet? Do your homework/groundwork first. Go for a higher level dialog when you initiate contact.
  • Be protective and prudent regarding the bandwidth of your top relationships. Do not send them an on-going stream of requests/referrals or they might stop taking your calls, as well!
  • Do you really need to get in front of the other person? Or would a phone call or email suffice? Consider a recruiter’s “sourcing for candidates” emails. They are quick summaries in bullet form with highlights of specific criteria/experience being sought. They generate quick and helpful responses with suggested names and contact information.
  • Do send an email with pertinent information before making a phone call or requesting a meeting.
  • Once you’ve had an in-person networking meeting, don’t keep pushing for a follow-on visit, as you have already received a valuable allocation of time. Maintain communications via email or phone messages.
  • If you know someone is working on a hiring initiative, only suggest/refer people who fit the criteria.

People are generally happy to impart knowledge and expertise. Ask a specific question and you will likely receive a specific answer, suggestion or referral! But keep in mind that requests for open-ended, getting-together sessions require a commitment on someone’s calendar and you are competing with billable business or client deadlines.

Friends, family and colleagues will always receive top consideration. And, of course, if you are a current or longstanding client, you can ask for the moon!

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene