When I speak to groups about networking, I use the analogy of networking being a two-way street, meaning one must be willing to help others in order to receive help from others – assistance must to be open to going both directions. Throughout the seminar, I stress approaching one’s networking efforts as “relationship building”, and in healthy relationships one must have give and take with the other person. Finally, when discussing networking correspondence with the seminar participants, my correspondence examples always finish with “…if I can be of assistance to you, I would be happy to reciprocate the kindness you have afforded me.”
The constant theme of being willing to help others will always generate the question, “I am in a job search, how can I help a networking contact?” Many attendees cannot envision the gifts they can offer when they themselves are in the position of asking for help. The truth is, we all have much to give and the act of extending the offer of assistance is the first step.
Help at a networking event, volunteer event, club activity, etc.: You can offer the gift of time to your networking contacts. Is you contact helping run a charity event in the future? Offer to help out; not only will you build the relationship with the current contact, you place yourself at an event where your contact could introduce you to other people.
Are you a recent grad? Your contact may have a teenage son/daughter: No, I am not talking about dating; I am suggesting that your contact could ask you to speak to a son/daughter about college (applying, freshmen year, choosing major, etc.). Personal story, when I was two years out of college, I remember meeting with a recent high school grad from my hometown who had been admitted to Notre Dame to discuss campus life, answer questions she had, and ease some of her concerns of moving 700 miles from home. It was something I could do to help another person.
Social Media Help: Just the other day I was helping an individual who is conducting a job search and at the end of the conversation he offered his assistance to me. He proposed if there was something I needed ‘liked’ or promoted on Facebook or Twitter, he would be happy to share through his networks. An interesting twist to helping others, promotion via social media.
Contacts: For those networkers who have been in the workplace for a number of years, you have the ability to connect your contact to former colleagues and supervisors. One of your friends or former colleagues could be of interest to your networking contact.
Job Performance: This is the most powerful way you can help a networking contact. If your networking contact supports your application for a job opening and you perform well (interview or on the job), it will reflect well on the contact. When someone refers a talented employee, the hiring manager is going to look more favorably on the person who offered the referral. By performing well at your job, you make your contact look good.
Although you may think you have little to offer those with whom you are reaching out to for networking help, you have several ways you can “reciprocate the kindness”.