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Watch Your Words!

imageTwo people that networked with me recently for their job search were good examples of what not to do as you build professional relationships.

Each of them have great career backgrounds, and each of them reached out to me to seek job networking contacts in a professional way… initially.

Over the course of a few weeks we spoke multiple times, I was able to provide multiple additional contacts and we built a rapport.

However, with each of these two people, they ultimately said things that shut down any chance of my helping them further. They sabotaged their prospects of continuing to get help from me, and it's highly likely they've done the same with others as well. Their mistakes are not that uncommon. Learn from them and be sure to watch your words!

In each case, they contacted me in the hopes that I may be able to point them to additional people that might be able to help in their job search. They were pleasant and I was glad to help. As time went on, and they re-connected multiple times, we got into more casual conversations about families, other job search activities, and challenges they faced. However, in both situations, they at some point apparently felt that since we had built a rapport, they no longer needed to project professionalism. They engaged in various forms of cursing in conversations. And called people that I referred to them names for not going far enough, in their minds, to help them gain interviews for positions they were pursuing. My confidence in them plummeted. If they were willing to vent as they did with me, it's highly likely they did, or would, vent to the people I referred them to as well.

Don't presume too close a relationship! Each of them, after a number of conversations, assumed more than a professional relationship and vented their frustrations in very unprofessional ways. While we did have more personal conversations, my willingness to share my business contacts was based on the perception that they would represent me well to the people I referred them to. Later, by using coarse language in conversations with me and disparaging people that they knew I held in high regard, it caused me to doubt that they would maintain a professional demeanor with the people I referred them to. As much as I enjoy building a relationship, my willingness to share my business contacts is based on their professionalism. Even your best friend is less likely to be willing to introduce you to their best contacts if they believe you will embarrass them in the process. Don't ever forget that professional networking is a business transaction, even with those that know you well!

Never use bad language! Although it's very common in, and outside of business, profanity always creates a less than professional impression. I find that even people that use bad language regularly themselves view others that do it in a very negative light. And certainly someone that doesn't use that kind of language themselves will view it as an even more serious breach. It will never benefit you, and almost always harm your reputation. Don't do it!

Never trash others! Just as it's a very bad idea to complain about a previous boss or company when you're in an interview, it's also a very bad idea to trash anyone else when you're networking. You never know what the person you're talking to really thinks about that contact, and it's easy to burn bridges in the process. Similarly, it's usually not a good idea to overly praise someone else either! If you rave about someone, and the person you're talking to doesn't think well of them, it can taint their impression of you in the process. If you think they're wonderful, and I think they're mediocre at best, it makes me question your judgment. Generally it's best to not express strong opinions one way or the other.

Your demeanor will help or hurt your networking success! I help lead a large monthly networking meeting for job seekers. Invariably, it's apparent that people that come prepared, dress neatly, speak concisely and directly, and are very professional in their manor and speech gain far more referrals. Conversely, when someone is dressed sloppily or overly casual, rambles on and seems unprepared, and uses too casual of words receive little to no help from the rest of the group. People are glad to refer someone to their contacts that they believe will represent them well, and don't want to inflict someone on their contacts that they believe will embarrass them. That same dynamic applies with your best friend or other individual contact as it does in a large networking group.

Be very aware that when you are looking for business contacts, the person you are asking is considering how you will make them look if they give you the best names they know. They are evaluating you in a business context, not a personal one. Don't assume too close a relationship. Never use bad language, Never trash, or overly praise others. And be conscious of your demeanor. It matters!


Are You “Professional”?

Networking is not a “One Hit Wonder”

Help them help you!

Interview (not so) Common Sense!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Harry, I can't say I've had that experience! I've certainly met a few who don't appear to understand how networking actually works, but the kind of Jekyll/Hyde thing is new to me. I'll be mindful of it going forward: thanks!


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