Networking: how not to do it

Networking is important in business, but it amazes me how clumsy some people’s attempts at networking are.

Case 1
Not long ago a business contact of my wife’s asked if she could help her husband get work, as he had just lost his job. My wife put his CV (resumé) about and arranged some interviews for him. As a result, this fellow got a job.

As it happens, this business contact and her husband live in the same apartment block as us, but the husband never contacted my wife to thank her for helping him get a job. Not a card, not a phone-call. What’s more, whenever he sees us, he greets me, but not her. Maybe he doesn’t realise she is the woman who helped him, but if that is the case, it is because he never bothered to find out.

The other day, however, he popped in to my wife’s office and asked to see her. The receptionist called her and said that her neighbour had popped in to say “Hello”.  Of course, my wife had no idea who it was at first and when it dawned on her, she was not interested in seeing the fellow. When the receptionist told him that my wife was not available, he left a message to say that he had just joined such-and-such a company and that if my wife’s company ever needed their services, she was not to hesitate to contact him.

Recap: she gets him a job, he doesn’t thank her, he proceeds to ignore her, then he calls on her when he needs her.

That’s a very odd notion of networking.

Case 2
Whothehell001Someone I used to work with, but with whom I had very little contact, e-mailed me recently. He wanted to talk to me on the phone, so I called him. The conversation started with something like: “Oh, I saw your update on LinkedIn recently and I was just wondering how you were doing, as it has been a long time since we chatted.”

This confused me, since we had never really chatted. There had never been a relationship, as such. Of course, I started to wonder what he really wanted.

The conversation went on for about ten minutes, with him asking me how I was doing and what I was up to. He seemed very interested in my life, whereas he had barely acknowledged my existence when we worked for the same company. I politely answered his questions and waited for him to get to the point.

The point, when it eventually came, was this: he wanted to apply for a job in a company where I had connections and he wanted me to find out whether his application would be favourably received.

I immediately thought of a schoolyard where a boy asks another to ask a girl if she fancies him.

I agreed to investigate for him, which I duly did.

However, I would have felt less… used… had he simply said: “Look, Declan, although we hardly know each other, and we don’t keep in touch, I was wondering if you could…”

I would have appreciated the honesty of that.

I don’t expect everyone in my LinkedIn network to keep in regular contact with me. Nor can I keep in regular contact with them. But if someone needs my help, they don’t have to pretend to be my friend. In fact, pretending to be my buddy when you are not, just to get something from me,  is  disrespectful and is not what networking is about.

I’ll leave you with the Merriam Webster definition of networking:

The cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”

Notice the key word “cultivation“.

The two gentlemen cited above really need to look that word up.

Kind regards.

Declan Chellar

7 comments to Networking: how not to do it

  • Hey Declan – Great post, so interesting and true. Amazing that story about your wife. What do you think the reason was that he ignored her for so long? Was he embarrassed that he got her a job?

    I think the thing about networking is that it is a marathon, not a sprint.

  • Hi, Adam.

    I think you meant “Was he embarrassed that she got him a job?”.

    I think it’s simply that he never bothered to find out who had helped him. It’s also possible that he considered the new job to be beneath him and was embarrassed to be doing it. However, he needed the job and yet he showed no gratitude at all.

    You are absolutely right, networking, like any other relationship, is a long-haul thing.

    Thanks for reading.


  • visitor

    Hello Declan,

    I notice that in your account of Case 1 (above) you mention that it was the man’s WIFE who asked your wife for employment help.

    Did this woman know that your wife got her husband the job? If so, it could be the wife (ie the business contact) who did not pass on the news. It’s a little hard to tell from your account. (If he knew that she did and did not achnowledge it, that is really unpardonable).

    Good post, much to consider there,

  • Hi, visitor.

    The man’s wife did indeed know that my wife had helped get him the interview. It is possible that she never mentioned that to her husband.



  • Update:

    My wife has just told me that the day this fellow went to see her, he popped in to the store where she had helped get him a job to see his former colleagues. He told the manager that he had been looking for my wife but that she was not available. The manager informed him that he lives in the same building as her. His response was “Yes, but we don’t interact.” This was reported back to my wife by that store manager.

  • visitor

    Hi Declan,

    I noticed a comment had been added to this post so I came back in to check. My new visit has certainly repaid inspection: “Yes, but we don’t interact”.!!!

    I think this whole incident now is not so much a comment on networking as a warning to check the mental state of people you are considering helping!!

    Questions – is this guy actually allowed only to speak to your wife if his wife is in the same location? Was he visiting your wife (possibly to thank her) in secret? Is he, in fact, an inhabitant of an etiquette Twilight Zone?

    I feel this has gone beyond the business-related issues of manners and networking skills into a more mysterious – and possibly soap-opera-based – realm. This may be beyond the scope of your business-based blog, but you must admit this adds a little frisson to the dynamics of networking behaviour!

    Kind regards,
    Visitor, Agog.

  • Welcome back, visitor, and many thanks for taking the time to comment again.

    This story just goes to underscore what I believe to be the foundation of all human interaction, yet which seem to be missing from so many interactions, from networking, to road traffic, to religion, to international diplomacy, to companies working together on integration projects:

    Basic courtesy and respect for other human beings.

    I feel a new post coming on.


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