The Networking Rule I Didn’t Know I Was Breaking for YEARS

I help people network their way to their dream jobs for a living, so it surprised me to learn that I was guilty of making a huge networking no-no for years.

Some background: I’m a big believer in making connections. Informational interviews, one-on-one meetings, and referrals are essential to navigating the modern job market, so I’m always pushing my clients to foster new relationships. At the end of every one of those coffee conversations, I advocate for my readers and clients to wrap up with a final set of questions: “Who else do you know who I should be connecting with on this? And would you be willing to make an e-introduction?”

But what I failed to realize until recently is that in facilitating connections for others, I was missing a step that left some people feeling bombarded and put in a tight spot.

In striving for email efficiency, I would skip right ahead to looping in two new people who didn’t already know each other onto the same email thread with an email that went something like this:

Subject: Rachel <> Jordan

Hi Rachel,

I wanted to introduce you to my friend, Jordan, who’s an incredibly talented political communications professional looking for her next job. I can attest to the fact that any organization would be lucky to have her, and given your experience in the industry, I thought you might be able to give her the scoop on any new opportunities you’re hearing about.

Jordan, feel free to take it from here!

Emilie

Seems innocuous, doesn’t it? I figured if Rachel was too busy to respond she simply wouldn’t, or she could draw the boundaries that felt right for her.

But I came to realize — thanks to a few helpfully assertive colleagues of mine — that this actually skips over an important courtesy: gaining consent before making an introduction.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an email like the above? How about a dozen? As your visibility rises, so too does pressure on your time, and I found many colleagues of mine were feeling bombarded by messages like these. It’s frustrating to be continually asked to volunteer your time in this manner, and under pressure to be helpful to a complete stranger or risk being seen as standoffish.

In my effort for efficiency and helping others build their networks, I lost sight of an important priority: maintaining respectful relationships within my own network.

I posed a question to my Facebook following about this issue and realized that many folks have strong feelings about email etiquette surrounding e-introductions.

“Do you feel it necessary to ask permission before making an email introduction between two people?” I asked, “Or does that just add to inbox clutter?”

Here are just a few of the emphatic reactions that question yielded:

“ I absolutely ask permission. I find that, 9 times out of 10, folks will agree, but it helps me be respectful of my friends’ and colleagues’ time, and also gives them space to say no if they’re not in a place where that request is something they can do.”

“I just had a [conversation] with someone about this. She prefers that someone ask permission first, so that she isn’t being emailed by people/strangers she doesn’t feel like she can/wants to help.”

“I absolutely ask permission, exactly because people are inundated and it’s the polite thing to do. And then there’s the whole data privacy thing, too.”

“I wish people would ask permission. I often get introduced and am not able to help… and then the person is frustrated.”

“I always ask permission so that the person can judge if/whether they want to be connected. I definitely appreciate when people ask me because it’s important to me to be responsive and follow up with people — which means that sometimes I’m just not able to be connected to someone because of other things that I have going on.”

I’m not perfect, but have since made efforts to change my approach and make sure that I’m not being careless in my attempt to be a timely connector.

If you haven’t already implemented this approach, keep in mind that in making connections, quality trumps quantity. It’s not just about expanding your network, it’s about fostering real relationships that have mutual respect at the core. Asking consent before connecting members of your networking is how we can live true to our respectful intentions.

This was originally published in my Forbes Leadership column and reposted here with permission.

 


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