Last week my daughter returned home from marching band practice frustrated by the behavior of a fellow color guard member. Apparently this member is notorious for forgetting her water bottle and then asking my daughter for drinks from hers. What’s wrong with this you may ask? Well, we live on the Gulf Coast where it is still hot and humid through October. During band practice, water breaks are short so members are reminded to fill their bottles before practice and keep them close by for quick access during these breaks. Forgetting your water bottle can be quite catastrophic in such heat and requests to share water are highly frowned upon by fellow band members who desperately need to ration their own water.
My daughter always agrees to share because, “Well, she is my teammate, I want to be supportive, and she might get dehydrated.” She then disclosed that this teammate is notorious for asking to share school lunch items as well. After ruling out possible financial or family issues for this behavior, I concluded that she is simply failing to be responsible and relies too heavily on her teammates to help her out. Unfortunately, she also fails to return these favors, others are beginning to avoid her, and her teammates have branded her as, well, a freeloader.
This story is a perfect example of the importance of both giving and taking when building strong, genuine relationships. And, when it comes to building your professional network, relationships are key. So, if you have become “that” person; the one whom everyone is avoiding and no one wants to help out, it’s time to review the following list. If you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself, it’s quite possible that you too, might just be a freeloader.
You have failed to build genuine professional relationships.
This is the key to building a network! In order for others to recommend you, refer you or help you out professionally, it is imperative that you first create a genuine relationship with them. Show an interest in them, their work and their needs first. Become their ally by offering to assist them. Collaborate on projects, share ideas and interests with them and demonstrate your skill specialties in these interactions. This is how you build strong, genuine professional relationships that turn into lifelong alliances.
You have asked for favors from professionals you have just met.
Not only is this very forward and rude, but it will brand you as selfish and unprofessional. Remember, networking starts with getting to know a professional first, then offering your assistance before asking for anything in return.
You have failed to provide professional assistance to others.
Part of any genuine relationship is the willingness to provide assistance without an expectation of getting something in return. Always focus on how you can contribute to others first and how you can contribute to your shared interests with them. This will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your skill specialties and show others what you can bring to the professional world. You will never go wrong by taking initiative in a professional relationship.
You have asked for a favor from another professional without offering to return one.
Never fail to offer assistance in return for asking for it. This is the true meaning of give and take among genuine professional relationships. And, it will remind others that you appreciate their time and efforts when helping you out. Your attempts to build relationships by taking and not giving will quickly brand you a freeloader and stall any attempt to build professional relationships.
You have failed to return a favor to a professional who has provided you one.
This mistake is the number one way to get you branded a freeloader. The more times you fail to return a favor, the quicker you will lose out on a strong professional relationship, others will avoid you and you will fail to form important alliances.
So, this is the list. Do you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself? Or, do you recognize these behaviors in someone else? If so, pay attention to this list, develop a plan to eliminate these behaviors, and begin to build stronger, more genuine professional relationships that will form lifelong alliances.
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