Networking and Karma

yin yangSo much is written about how to network, especially if you’re looking for work. But this blog isn’t about how to be a better networker — it’s about why you need to be a GREAT networking contact for others.

There’s a natural order to networking too – the “hunter” or the “hunted.” The “giver” or the “taker.” Plenty has been written about being the “taker.”How to find people to network with. How to follow-up without being a nuisance. What to say, what not to say, and how to leverage LinkedIn. But especially, how to not appear obvious (that he or she is trying to find a job) or desperate (that he or she really, really need a job).

And while all that advice is very useful (heck, I’ll admit that I blog about this topic and have written articles on networking), it doesn’t address one fundamental truth about today’s job market. Our contacts need us to help them like never before. The success of these networking interactions depends more on the attitude of who’s being asked than the one who’s asking.

I’m sure that most of you have had a long-lost contact send you a LinkedIn request in the past few months. Forgive me if it was due to a suggestion I gave them. When you get asked for networking help as much as I do, it’s a little hard to keep a fresh perspective and not have a “Oh no! Not another I-want-to-work-at-Nike request “(insert eye roll).

Or to be asked by strangers, literally, to make professional introductions on their behalf (insert exaggerated eye roll). I still shake my head at clueless behavior, but no more so than I do with the person at the cash register who’s fumbling for his wallet like it’s a surprise that he now has to pay for his groceries.

And if you haven’t been generous and open with your network, or built some career karma around networking, you’ll be sunk.

I’m still candid and upfront and not shy to let them know that their networking approach needs some finesse, but I also realize that their success doesn’t depend as much on their approach as it does my attitude as the “giver.” I’ve seen even the most dreadfully inept networker land a job through networking.

Many of you are in positions where, because of your position, career achievements, affiliations or organization’s reputation, are considered prime networking contacts. Maybe you feel more like a networking “target,” but you know what I mean – you are almost reluctant to share your professional details with others – whether it is with a LinkedIn profile, an alumni directory, or Facebook. Get over it. Even you, my friend, are likely to find your next job is through networking.

Trust me. And if you haven’t been generous and open with your network, or built some career karma around networking, you’ll be sunk.

I won’t deny it — I still prefer to do business with a thoughtful, appreciative networker. And I have to be honest that “hit and run” networkers, those who don’t grasp that networking is all about building meaningful relationships, are the ones I have the hardest time connecting with. So it only makes sense that I’m not going to invest the time or energy in these types of networking interactions.

It’s like watching a movie — I’m only going to invest my time if it feels like I’ve made some sort of connection to the movie. If not, I move on. But I always try and have an open mind when the movie (or networking request) starts out — it’s an opportunity for me to build my career karma if I can be of assistance.

The greatest secret about being a great networker and having a solid professional network? Be a great networking contact. The more you help others be successful, the more success you’ll have too. It’s all about the karma, baby!

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