October 10, 2010
How to network without being a jerk
Branding doesn't stop with your website or Twitter account. What others in your field think of you as a person has everything to do with your brand, too.
Sadly, far too many professionals fail to recognize that when it comes to forging relationships with others in the business world, social graces are everything. Check your manners at the door and you're doomed to botch networking opportunity after networking opportunity -- not to mention be branded a clueless mooch.
Me 2.0 author Dan Schawbel, who I interviewed for my previous post, has a lot to say on the topic of networking without coming across as a jerk. Schawbel's four rules of successful relationship building follow:
Create win-win situations. "If you benefit more than someone else, you're not going to have a lasting relationship with them," Schawbel says. In other words, don't be the person who's constantly asking for a favor or a handout while offering your contacts nothing in return. That's the quickest route to getting bounced from people's inboxes and bumped from their social networks.
Give before you receive. "The key is to network before you need it -- when you don't need a job and you're not looking for an opportunity," Schawbel says. He practices what he preaches, too. My first contact with Schawbel occurred two years ago, when my second book was published. Schawbel came to me, offering to promote my book by doing a Q&A with me on his popular branding blog -- no strings attached. And so began our mutually supportive professional relationship. I imagine Schawbel repeated this pattern with other authors, bloggers, and journalists all over the map, a smart move that undoubtedly helped tremendously when it came time to promote his own book.
Handpick your contacts. When it comes to networking, boasting 2,000 Twitter followers or 750 Facebook friends does you little good if none of them has any influence in your chosen field. Schawbel's "quality over quantity" tip in my previous post doesn't just apply to the content you push out online -- it also applies to the professional relationships you forge. Rather than concerning yourself with how many people watch what you say and do on the web, Schawbel says, focus on targeting contacts who can help you most in your career.
Always be reconnecting. You know the relative who only comes out of the woodwork every few years when he or she needs money? Don't be the job-seeking equivalent, Schawbel advises. Your contacts can smell a disingenuous user 10 miles away. Touch base with your contacts periodically so that if you do have to call in a favor, they're willing to help. Thanks to technology, a simple comment on a colleague's blog or Facebook wall a few times a year is often all it takes to stay on someone's radar.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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