One of the worst feelings you can have when you are networking is that you are drawing down favors from everyone you contact and you honestly have no way of repaying their many courtesies. Unfortunately, this is not your imagination.
True networking is, of course, a give and take. Hopefully you are in this networking thing for the long term. If you are, let me put your mind at ease.
For those of you who remember the original Godfather movie, you may remember the scene before the wedding where Don Corleone is lecturing the undertaker about never having allowed himself to be put in his debt. While none of you will, hopefully, ever ask one of your networking contacts to have someone beat up, asking for favors is a normal and an accepted part of life.
What is more important about this little episode and often forgotten is that asking for a favor is bestowing a great honor on the giver. Think about the last time someone asked YOU for a favor you were able to grant. (I won’t ask who you had beat up.) I’ll bet that you felt pretty good about yourself. Perhaps you got the son or daughter of one of your friends an interview with your firm. Or, if it was a networking contact, perhaps you opened a few doors for someone.
The big hang up is the whole issue of paying back the specific individual who did you a favor. Now I’m not going to suggest that you conveniently forget that someone did you a favor. Who knows, your roles might change at some point. What I am going to suggest is that instead of trying to pay back the exact person, that you instead accept that you have a “debt to society” to repay.
By accepting favors during your networking process you incur an obligation to help others in the same way. Which others? Everyone who comes your way.
During my early days in The FENG many individuals from our august body did me favors. There honestly weren’t many of us, but everyone in the spirit of friendship tried to help. We looked over each other’s resumes. We shared all of our job leads. Even in between meetings, all of us tried to contact other members when finding a job we felt might be of interest to them.
Doing favors and receiving favors shouldn’t have any evil overtones to you. If you are willing to get in the spirit of The FENG thing, you will always be out and about seeking out those who might need your help. Our new members in particular always comment to me how nice it is that during their first week so many members called to welcome them seeking nothing in return.
By practicing non-judgmental networking, you will find that you become better as time goes on at detecting others who have needs. Before they even ask, you will be able to provide those who call you or meet you with the kind of assistance they require. You might even assist them in ways they were reluctant to ask for.
Life doesn’t get much better than that. It is quite a payback.