The Networking Paradox!

posted by Dilip on December 27, 2015

As a result of working with over 6,000 clients throughout the world during the past 15 years in my coaching practice, I have an extensive network of clients and professionals on LinkedIn. As a part of my coaching practice I often ask my clients to identify those in my network that they would like to tap for getting into companies that interest them. Once they choose from a group of names from my network in their target company I ask them to pick the one name that would be most useful for them to pursue an opportunity of interest.

There is, however, a downside to this process. Often, clients assume that once they have a strong entry point at a company of interest they tend to be somewhat cavalier about pursuing that opportunity, starting with the initial connection with the introduced individual, often going downhill from there. When things do not materialize some clients blame the connection for not making their entry a success at the company. They fail to realize that getting an introduction to someone in a company is only the beginning of their journey, and not the end!

So, what is the paradox here? It is that when you have a strong introduction to enter a company you also need a strong process and a message that respect that introduction. A strong introduction with a weak “message” can scuttle your mission. Similarly, a strong message with a weak introduction can also do the same. So, the paradox here is that whenever you have a strong message you need a strong introduction that can carry that message. Conversely, having a strong introduction requires a strong “message” to carry you through to the end zone as well! In this context “message” encompasses not only your résumé and cover letter, but also how you carry that out from the get-go for your contact for moving it forward towards the end-zone.

This blog is about how to manage a good introduction and how to parlay that introduction into landing a job or at least for moving it forward in a meaningful way. I plan to list the common mistakes many make in navigating through a strong introduction and then placing an outward blame when things do not pan out for them. Here is that list:

1. Respect the introduction: Once an introduction is made you must treat that with care and the respect it deserves. Quickly connect with them and ask for what you need to do to respect their time and needs. Since they are doing YOU a favor (and me) you must respect their needs, including how they want to go about helping you. Do not make peremptory demands to meet for lunch or after hours at a bar to make it convenient for you. Do not ask them to look up things or research material related to the job or the hiring manager. This is a turn-off.
2. Avoid stalking: Not everyone is comfortable responding to introduction requests. Explore what incentives (e.g., referral bonus) the contact can benefit from if they helped you and leverage that to move your introduction forward. Not everyone is motivated to help for money, so do not make a big deal over their benefit in helping you. Most do this more to help than anything else. If after two or three follow-ups you get nowhere, find another person to get introduced to.
3. Ask what works: Once you make the contact and the person is willing to move your cause forward ask how they want to work with you to minimize their effort and time. Anything they provide is boon to your cause, so be considerate how you manage their expectations in this regard. Do not assume anything from them; ask!
4. Manage the message: A strong introduction is not a proxy for your message. The message must be equally strong on its own so that they feel good about promoting it internally. Do not expect them to understand what you have on your mind and then for them to understand to relay that to the right decision-maker. All that you want to convey must be a stand-alone message through your résumé and your cover letter (and anything else they may suggest).
5. Make them dispensable: Once your connection is able to relay the message to the right party within the company ask them about how to follow-up with that person and get your connection out of the loop. This not only removes the burden they may fear of carrying, but also gives you the control over the next steps. Keep them apprised now and then merely through short emails or IMs of a positive nature. Do not complain to them if something gets stuck or backfires.
6. Ask for advice: Each company has its own process of navigating through the hiring maize. If something or some step is in need of clarity politely ask them the best way to deal with it so that you do not come across as uninformed or as unprofessional. Thank them for their help with alacrity!
7. Avoid competition: Do not go after multiple contacts in the same company for the same job and use the contact one against another to promote your cause. Do not say, “If you do not have time for this I think Sally will be happy to do this, instead.” This is definite turn-off.
8. Close the loop: The person who initiated the introduction (me in this case) and person introduced can benefit from knowing the outcome of the process regardless of what it is. Even if you were to receive a rejection, both parties would like to know from you with a kind word of appreciation about the help they provided in this process. This is how you keep your network active and ready to help you the next time.
9. Help someone: Just as you needed help, be a catalyst to someone else, both in introducing someone in your network and in helping someone when they are introduced to you for entering your company. Giving it forward keeps this process on track for everyone.
10. Make a list: In this process you’ll run into those who abuse such opportunities and vitiate the process by keeping their own agenda above all that is decent and professional. In such cases avoid promoting or introducing them in the future. It is a reflection on you in how you manage your own brand.

Now that you understand the Networking Paradox follow the tips in this blog and make yourself a valuable link in connecting people and in helping them with their needs.

Good luck!