ladieswithcomputersOK. I wouldn’t be a responsible recruiter, blogger, writer and networker if I didn’t tell you the truth. I have been and continue to be a huge advocate of social networking and using sites like Linked In to build your professional brand and network. But I think it’s getting a wee bit out of hand now. Let me explain.

Yes, the primary purpose of those sites is to get to know people and make lasting connections. However, I have read one too many articles and heard far too many “experts” tell people to get on and use it to find a job. “Don’t be afraid to seek out people in companies you want to work in and let them know you’re looking for a job or ask for an introduction to a hiring manager within the company”. Ordinarily I would agree with that, but with a caveat. Anyone who has read anything I’ve written knows that I tell people build relationships and get to know people. Yes, you should be bold and reach out to people you don’t know. But there is an etiquette to it. Make an effort to get to know the person and build some sort of relationship with them. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten an email asking to introduce someone to one of my contacts. I don’t have a problem making connections, but if I have never communicated with you or hadn’t heard from you since we initially connected, do not ask me to refer you. See, it’s a credibility issue with me. My name and reputation mean everything to me. Anyone I recommend is someone I know in some capacity. If I don’t know you from Eve, how can I introduce you to someone not knowing what you bring to the table?

Think about it. Would you refer someone you don’t know? If things went wrong, that could damage not only your reputation, but also your relationship. One time I passed along an introduction figuring I would help this person out because they needed a job. I didn’t know her, but she sent an email introducing herself to let me know she was on the market. I made the introduction and forgot to tell my contact I did not know her personally. The person went on to badger my contact. She called her repeatedly and sent email after email asking for an interview. My contact said she told her she didn’t have anything at the time but to watch the website. She also told her she’d be in touch if something came up. The woman would call her every time she saw a new opening on the company website. I was so embarrassed and had to work overtime to mend my damaged relationship. Well, I generally applaud initiative. But stalking is another issue altogether and I cannot condone that.

I think writers have been very irresponsible to tell readers to go ahead and reach out to people without giving them the proper etiquette lesson that goes along with that advice. I truly hope that you all do go out and network, you’re supposed to, otherwise how would you build your network. But please be responsible about it. Don’t go in there reaching out to folks you never met asking for introductions or worse, making your initial contact about getting a job. I am not heartless. But I am a realist. Get to know the people you reach out to. Ask to speak with them via phone and chat a little about yourself. Don’t go into interview mode or ask to send your resume. What you can do is talk about your expertise, and casually mention that you may be interested in hearing about the right opportunities. As them if they mind if you keep in touch with them periodically. Remain in touch by sending relevant articles, events and books. A follow up email every now and then is welcomed by most people. Sending an email every week, well, is stalking.

So “Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers”, but do it responsibly. Be courteous and respectful. If you manage your network with class, common sense and respect I promise that you will benefit from leads because you took the time to nurture the relationships. Remember, it’s give and take.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

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