Networking is an art that is nuanced. People who do it best understand unspoken rules and demonstrate generosity, reciprocity and respect.
When I was an executive recruiter, I was always popular at parties. People would sidle up to me and say (sometimes in a whisper) that they wanted to send me their resumes.
No problem. I’m in the service business and genuinely want to help people. I would gladly add these people to the firm’s database and my own contacts list. Invariably though, some of these same people would not return my occasional phone call. But when they needed a job or career advice, they would pursue me relentlessly and without regard for the value of my time.
Indeed there are givers and takers in this world. I’m generally a giver and will give to takers – but only to a point. There is the rule of reciprocity that comes into play. It’s not about keeping score, but you must realize that when things are one way, they aren’t sustainable.
Here are a few tips on how you can make sure you are striking the right give-take balance.
- Invite, and pay for, clients and contacts to attend seminars or luncheons to hear speakers you think they would find interesting.
- Invest time in people who show curiosity, promise, and gratitude; they can inspire your thinking. Be generous with your time but set boundaries.
- While waiting in airports, run through your contacts and pop off 5-10 emails to people you haven’t talked to in six months. People love to be thought about when you clearly have no agenda.
- Send articles that are of interest to people on your contacts list. It’s lets them know you’re thinking about them.
- If you hear of or read about a contact’s personal triumph or tragedy, send a handwritten card or note, or send flowers to express your sentiments. People remember kindnesses and consideration.