Are You Networking or Using People? Here’s How to Know the Difference

Networking or Using People? Know the Difference!

No one wants to be accused of using other people, but are you mistakenly acting like a “user”?

The definition of networking is “connecting to build two-way relationships for the long term.” Simple, right?

The concept is both simple and powerful, but the tragedy today is that most people are missing the key actions required to be courteous, genuine and respectful. I don’t believe people are using others intentionally. It’s just that they’re not thinking enough about the other person, and they’re not making time to follow up and continue the relationship.

Everybody should be networking! Common reasons to create connections are building a business, finding new clients, assembling alliances, job searching, fund-raising, seeking an internal career promotion, and doing research. But there are hundreds of other reasons, too, ranging from personal, business, and emotional to spiritual.

So let’s see what type of connector you are:

Scenario: Nancy has a phone interview with ABC Company. She is networking to get advice and find people within ABC who can send her résumé to the hiring manager for additional visibility.

The USER: Nancy wrote to one of her LinkedIn connections, Sam, through LinkedIn: “Sam, we’re connected on LinkedIn and I see you work for ABC Company. I have an interview with them tomorrow. Can you please give me some advice? And, attached is my résumé. Will you please forward it to the hiring manager of job #125465 with a referral? Thank you, Nancy”

USER Behaviors: Last minute, built no relationship, asked for too much. Seeking advice is too general. It feels like a form letter that may be sent to many.

The NETWORKER: This requires multiple steps, with the first one taking place a minimum of two weeks in advance!

Through LinkedIn: “Sam, we are connected on LinkedIn and I read your great profile. It appears you have a strong background in sales at the ABC Company, and I am applying for an outside sales position in the Y Division in San Francisco, a position I am passionate about and qualified for. I realize you don’t know me, but may I ask you a few questions via e-mail? What is your business e-mail address so I can ask three questions? I hope I can help you in some way, as well. Regards, Nancy”

Through e-mail: Nancy constructs a formal business letter, outlining her three questions and attaching the job description for her desired position, as well as her résumé. Nancy closes her e-mail with, “Sam, I would like to ask for 20 minutes of your time to listen to your answers and learn more about your career. May I call you next Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday at 10am PST? Which day works best? Thank you very much, Nancy.”

During the Phone Call: Nancy listens to the answers, takes notes, and sends an immediate thank you note.

FOLLOW UP: Immediately following Nancy’s phone interview or any other milestone, Nancy writes Sam to keep him informed. “Sam, again, thank you for your time on . Your advice was invaluable. I had my phone interview with and they asked me to come in for face-to-face interviews next week. I’m so excited. Your insights on the ABC Company corporate values and culture were particularly helpful. Sam, may I come to your office for 30 minutes next week to meet you face-to-face and ask three more questions in preparation for the interview? Is there anything I can do to help you? Thank you so much and regards, Nancy”

The single most common and rude characteristic of a USER is the lack of follow up. In my business, I help at least one hundred people per week and, at most, two people follow up with me and tell me how their situation is going. At the end of my emails, I always say, “Please let me know how you progress.” No response. I’ve been used.


What are your networking challenges? Share them here so we can help.


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