Q: I am in the market for a new job and am trying to network to find opportunities. But people are not very responsive and I'm wondering why it's not working for me. Should I take it personally?
A: Networking is important, and depends on trust and mutual benefit. So, while there's no point in taking the response personally, it would be valuable to reflect on your approach.
Think about some recent episodes. What strategies are you using? What steps are you taking? Many people will simply send an e-mail and leave it at that. Often this will be too passive, given the volume of e-mails these days.
The tone of your contact is extremely important. Reread your e-mails or think about your voice mails. If you sound demanding or if your tone is "off" in some way, this will be a serious deterrent. Don't rely on your own perception, because you're likely to see what you want to see. Instead, ask a friend to give you feedback. As always when seeking input, resist any impulse to argue or make excuses — use it as an opportunity to improve.
Now, here's the hard part. Networking is not a quick turnaround strategy. Relationships need to be built over time and on a foundation of mutual benefit. If you are using a short term networking strategy, that could account for the indifferent response you're receiving.
Given these factors, here are a few things to think about to improve your approach.
In particular, consider addressing the following questions from the point of view of the person you're reaching out to:
• Why should I trust you? Be able to explain, briefly, who you are, how you're connected and why it's safe for them to connect you with people they know. You're asking people to take a reputational risk, so it's fair to have to demonstrate your credibility.
• What do you want me to do? Do your research to know what you want, and then be specific in asking. If you can name a person you'd like to meet, mention that (and explain the reason you would like the introduction). If you're trying to learn more about how their company works or opportunities in the industry, explain that. It's your responsibility to make it easy for them to help you.
• What if I say no? Generally speaking, people want to be nice and like to be helpful. That said, sometimes there are constraints that prevent them from engaging.
If you can make it comfortable to say no, you'll leave a better feeling with them. In the interest of building longer-term relationships, this is very important.
• What will I get in return? You may not have anything concrete to offer right now, but at least note that you're committed to helping them — or someone they know — in the future. And then keep notes on something that may be interesting to them; even sending a link to an article they might like sends a positive message.
Remember, this is not "one and done." Build an ongoing practice of relationship building to help further your career for the long run.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.