Networking Disasters - How to Market yourself effectively


Networking is a slow and patient activity, like gardening. When you network, you plant seeds, and over time you water them and give them sun. You're cultivating relationships and learning about people and their perspectives.

Networking is a personal growth activity and a way to give back.

If you're focused on the win you have in mind -- a prized introduction, a resume walked into HR on your behalf or some free website design, for instance - then you're not really networking.

You're creating a social space and social energy, in a coffee shop for instance, in order to justify your request for a business service or good. That is impolite, and it isn't networking.

When you invite people to coffee to get them to buy from you, hire you or make an introduction for you, you're turning a relationship-building activity into a transaction, and that is wrong.

You're not paying the person who is so kindly lending you time and attention, so unless the two of you have agreed otherwise, the only topic you can properly introduce at at one-on-one networking date that you suggested is "Tell me about yourself!"

Be happy for the networking time and any advice that you are offered. Don't push people to extend themselves for you when you have little or no social capital invested with them.


A woman came up to me after a conference and asked "What am I doing wrong in my job-search networking?" "What are you doing right now?" I asked her.

"Well," she said, "My friends introduce me to people they know, and I ask them to coffee and I go to coffee with them.

At the coffee meeting, I pull out my resume and walk through it job by job, and ask them if they have any questions. Then at the end I ask them who else I should talk to in their company, and ask for an introduction to that person."

I started hyperventilating just listening to the job-hunter's story.On the flight home I wondered how those noble people sat through a forcible "walk through my resume" coffee date without running screaming into the parking lot. The woman with the resume doesn't realize she's throwing her friends under the bus -- the friends who made the introductions that sentencedtheir friends to those painful all-about-my-resume coffee dates.

When someone introduces you to a friend, go to the meeting without your resume. Sit and ask questions. "How long have you lived in town?" "Tell me your career story!" Keep this rule top of mind: it's okay to ask people for their advice on slight association; it's never okay to ask for introductions before you're invited to.


Wherever Dante stopped digging the rungs of hell, there is yet a lower one for people who use your name irresponsibly to swipe an introduction they didn't ask you for. It's happened to me a few times.

A sort-of-friend found out about a guy I know who was doing a lot of investing a/k/a had a lot of money, and the sort-of-friend wrote to the guy and tried to sell him Florida beachfront property, using my name as the connective tissue between her and the guy (and extrapolating his email address, which I hadn't given her).

I heard about the beachfront-property pitch and expressed my displeasure. The lady didn't understand what she had done wrong. "You're his friend, I used your name, so what?" she said. "I don't need your permission to use your name when I write to a guy."

The woman is mistaken. An introduction is offered or it's not. Don't drop names of friends who haven't blessed the use of their names as door-openers.


A fundamental misconception about networking is that it's appropriate to call or write to perfect strangers and ask them to do things for you -- to pass your resume on to the head of HR, for instance.

Some poor guy is sitting at his desk and the phone rings. "Hi, is this Abishek?" a voice says. "Yes," you say, mind racing as you try to imagine who it could be. "Yeah, I found you on LinkedIn, and I'm looking for a job in your company," says the voice. "Will you open some doors for me?"

That's not networking. That's another abuse of the social frame for commercial purposes. Talk to your friends instead, and see who they know. Go to networking events. Try the stuff I teach, Pain Letters and Human-Voiced Resumes. Step out there. Don't call people you don't know and ask them to go out of their way for you.

It wouldn't be good judgment on their part if they did. What does "vouch for" mean, anyway? It means that you can speak for someone. How can a stranger speak for you?


Each person is valuable as an individual. The worst thing a networker can do is to treat another person like a conduit, a pass-through or a means to an end. It feels bad when people do that to you.

When I first landed in Colorado in 2001 I had got some networking invitations. A woman was breathless to meet me. "I'm so excited to meet you!" she gushed. We met for coffee.

"I want to tell you everything about myself!" she said, an inauspicious start.

"Then, if we have time, I want to learn what you do for a living."

You know that thing where your spit catches in your throat and it makes you cough? I coughed so hard I almost flew out of my chair.

"I'm trying to piece this together," I said. "You wanted to meet me very badly, but you don't know what I do for a living? Help me understand how this meeting came to be."

"Oh," she said, "about fifty different people told me that you know a ton of people. You could make introductions for my business.That's why I was excited to meet you!"

That's the kind of networking I want you to avoid, the kind where you value people based on the size of their networks.

What matters in networking and in the workplace is energy. If the energy between you and another person is good energy, you might become friends. That's when the concrete stuff - introductions, job leads and favors - will come in. Don't rush the transaction.

The power of the relationship, the communitrons that flow between you and your friend and the mojo boost for both of you, when you can see those things, are the real prize.


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