I was speaking to a group of job seekers recently about the “new rules” of networking and the following question came up:
“I’ve connected with a lot of people and they’ve all been very helpful in giving me advice and answering my questions. Some even agreed to meet with me for informational interviews. But now, I just don’t know what to do next. I can’t ask them for more help, and I don’t know how to keep the networking going. What can I do to keep them engaged without them feeling like I’m nagging them for help in finding a job?”
This is a common problem job seekers experience. Nobody wants to be seen as a networking nuisance. Especially people looking for work, since networking is the number one method for getting a job these days.
What’s the answer? It lies in the scales of justice.
Time To Balance The Scales
When someone you’ve been networking with has been extremely helpful to you, it’s as if they’ve tipped the scales in your favor. Your goal has to be to bring the scales back to balance. You do so by giving back. This is usually where job seekers say, “But J.T., I don’t have anything to give back.”
You have the ability to share with them your knowledge and experience. You also have something called “social currency” at your disposal, and you need to use it.
Become A Content Curator
As a professional, you have lots of knowledge stored in your head. You also– I hope– stay up-to-date on industry news and trends by reading as much as you can. As you find interesting articles, you should be bookmarking them to share with your network. This is called “curating content” and it involves you identifying information online you feel would benefit your network. The power of being a content curator is, by default, you show how smart you are. The fact you knew enough to select the timely information to share with your network shows your knowledge and expertise.
Here’s What You Do
Once someone in your network has assisted you, besides sending them a thank-you note, put a reminder in your calendar to send them some content you curated in three weeks. When the day arrives, pull one or two articles you feel they’d find interesting and send them off in an e-mail that says:
Hi, I saw these articles and thought you’d find them of interest. Enjoy!
That’s it. Just give them some content and nothing else. I guess you could add a quick sentence or two about why you chose each article, but don’t go crazy. The point is to keep it brief. This tactic is the leveraging of social currency I referred to earlier. It’s you providing value in the form of insight sent by e-mail! If they like it, they might reply back, but don’t expect a response. Just think of it as a little give you are putting in their inbox. Send it and move on.
Then, mark your calendar for six to eight weeks out with their name and when the time comes, do it again. And then, keep doing it every several months or so. The goal is to earn their trust (a.k.a. balance the scales) by showing them how you can add value to the relationship in a respectable fashion. Anyone who is committed to staying in touch with someone as I’ve outlined above proves they are a true professional worth networking with.
FYI – Balancing Will Take Time… But It’s Worth It
Granted, the approach above takes time, but all good relationships take time, right? When you invest in the process above, you’ll give the people you are networking with the chance to get to know you better. You’ll earn their trust and respect – and that will lead to them feeling comfortable referring you. That’s when the networking really pays off in the form of introductions to others in their network. And that, could lead to your next job! Now you know how to not be a networking nuisance.
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