A lot has been written over the years and in this newsletter about the do’s and don’ts of networking. In his book, Rites of Passage, John Lucht talks about the NFL approach to networking where you block and tackle your networking contacts and hold them down until they come up with at least 3 names.
I hope that those of us in The FENG never take this approach, especially when it comes to other members. Still, with 40,000+ members, some of our approaches to “networking FENG style” need to be repeated.
There was an article in the New York Times a long time ago that several members called to my attention. The title was “Hiring? You’re Everyone’s Best Friend.” It highlighted some of the very obvious results from using the NFL approach and how it “feels” on the other end.
I have also received several “letters of complaint” from new alumni members (those who have recently started new jobs).
I fully understand and respect the need on the part of active members to get prompt responses to their phone calls and emails. I was out of work for almost two full years and I know what that feels like.
Still, the world of work is a busy place. And, if you have been out of the workplace for any length of time, it can take all your energy just to get yourself acclimated to new responsibilities and a new environment. Being older, we are typically a little set in our ways, and learning the culture of a new company can be difficult, coupled with the fear of not doing a great job and having to start the process all over again. “I’ve landed” is a misnomer in that it makes it sound as if the person who is working is now totally safe and sitting with their feet up on the desk. Generally speaking, nothing could be further from the truth.
I say this to sensitize active members to the reality on the other end of the phone or email. It’s not that alumni members don’t want to help. Their first priority has to be surviving in their new job and you need to respect that as much as they respect your need to network.
Networking in our context starts with contacting those who might have a real interest in hearing from you. If you are a manufacturing type contacting another manufacturing type, it can be a welcome call. If you are an internal audit person calling another internal audit person, that can work. If you and I worked for the same firm either at the same time or at different times, that can work as well.
There are any numbers of connections that are real enough to provide a bridge to the person on the other end of the phone not viewing your making contact as being a “crank call.”
First and foremost is to keep it personal and as a member of The FENG you have a power tool in your membership directory. Let me never again receive a copy of a message sent by anyone in our august body that begins “Dear FENG member.” I shudder at the thought, and I hope you do too.
Is your letter going to be somewhat boilerplate? Of course, it will be. But, leave lots of fill in the blanks to personalize your message.
And, be sure to write in advance before calling. There is something I call the “Man from Mars syndrome.” I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you want, and I sure don’t know how to help you. All that is avoided by sending a SHORT cover letter and a copy of your resume. If you have a SHORT target company list, that can help too!
If you want others to treat you as a person, then I guess you are obligated to do the same. “Dear Matt or Current Occupant” isn’t going to make your day or mine.
And most important, be respectful of the time others can devote to helping you. If they sound rushed, offer to call back. If they need to pass on offering assistance at this time, let it go.
You have 40,000+ folks to choose from. Don’t beat a dead horse. Move to the next card and be more than a little forgiving.
Remember, you will be sitting on the other side of the desk in the not too distant future and much as you will want to “pay back,” your first priority needs to be keeping that job you just found. I know you will want other members to understand, safe in the knowledge that when you can help, you will.
After all, that is what The FENG is all about.