January 5, 2011
Why you should build relationships, not networks
In my last post, "Philosophies to building long-lasting relationships," I interviewed Carol Olsby, a global human resources expert who emphasizes that genuine long-term relationships are essential to professional career success. Here, we'll get deeper into the heart of what everyone talks about: networking.
Q: What are your thoughts about networking?
A: I personally do not like the word "networking" as it seems so '"transactional" to me. To me, "networking" implies that our relationship is based on how we can help each other. I personally want to have genuine relationships that require an investment of time. Business relationships in my mind are no different than personal relationships. You need to make a concerted effort to build long-lasting relationships in the good and bad times. If you are long-term relationship-oriented, there may be seasons in your life where you give more than you get and that is perfectly fine. I have been fortunate to have met many wonderful people in my career. It is disheartening to me when I have worked with someone in the past and the only time I hear from him or her is when he or she is in a job search. To me that person is a "networker" and sees our relationship as "transactional."
If people have learned anything from this challenging financial market where many have lost their jobs or know of people who have, it's the need to build long-lasting relationships. If I have worked with you, invested in our business relationship and have done good work, when you hear of good job opportunities, you will make it a point to let me know. Additionally, if I see a job opportunity at a company where someone I have worked with is employed, I have no problem contacting them for myself or on behalf of a colleague. Maintaining good business relationships is also very good for building your competencies, as you can learn from colleagues.
Q: For HR professionals and executives in transition, what would you recommend in terms of networking and relationship building?
A: First, the person in transition needs to be clear on what the next step is in her career and what kind of support she needs. If the person is having trouble determining his next career step, he can attend career seminars through the Unemployment Security/WorkSource offices or local private organizations.
Once the job seeker is clear on what kind of job-search assistance is needed, I would then make a list of all the people I have known throughout my career who I have maintained good relationships with (or should have) and would reconnect with them by phone, e-mail and/or LinkedIn. If the business person does not have a LinkedIn account, I would create one as soon as possible. If you have not kept in close contact with a business colleague, chances are she is on LinkedIn and would welcome the opportunity to reconnect. When you connect with your list of people, take the time to continue building the relationship and then let them know how they can help you. When people are in transition, it is very isolating. Sometimes, I have people come to my office just to have a cup of coffee with me and to reconnect. If you are in a job transition, when possible, try to meet the people on your list in person.
I believe that a commitment to giving back to the community is good. If you have not volunteered before, while you are in transition this is a good time to start. You can contact many nonprofits and volunteer a few hours using your competencies or learn new skills. This is also very good for the person in transition, as he is contributing to society and also maintaining a work schedule. This is also a good time to attend seminars (many are free) or classes to build your competencies, where you have the added benefit of meeting other people who are generally in like professions.
Once the person in transition secures a new position, he needs to maintain and build his relationships. He also needs to remember that relationships are for both the good and bad times, and he also has a responsibility to help others when they are in transition. Many times I have known of close colleagues who are in transition and are too embarrassed to ask me for support with their job search, so I will ask them, how can I help you? They generally reply that they do not want to inconvenience me. Since I see our relationship as long-term, I am very happy to help them in any manner needed.
My feedback to people in transition is not to be afraid to ask for the support you need whether it is just to have someone listen to you, to be your cheerleader, to make an introduction, refer you for a job, have coffee with you, etc.
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.
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."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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