Networking with Casual Connections

Black kitten and yellow dog meeting nose to nose

The following question was posed on Twitter:

Any tips on networking with loose acquaintances? Don’t want to come across as needy or seeking something without providing.

The fact that you don’t want to seem like you are being opportunistic is very good. Whether a person is someone you are close with or a more casual connection, it’s important to remember that s/he is doing you a favor to help you out. If you make it all about yourself, even the closest person could be put off because you are using them.

With loose acquaintances, you want to establish a firmer connection. Do something that will benefit them:

  • Forward an article that reminds you of a conversation you had previously with them or that talks about a new development in their field.
  • Pass on the name of a person you know who may be a good contact for them.
  • Invite them to a gathering.  Holiday parties are nearly done for the season, but there are always other events to be held throughout the year.
  • Help them solve a problem.  If they have talked about a situation that seems to keep coming up and you have information or an idea that can help them, tell them about your possible solution.

The reaction of the acquaintance will tell you what you need to know about further pursuing the connection. If you get just a lukewarm “thanks,” there’s not much there to encourage additional conversation. Don’t discard that contact, but put it to the back of your file to possibly touch base with again in the future.

If the acquaintance expresses sincere gratitude and conveys enthusiasm after your contact, the door has been opened. This doesn’t mean you go straight into making your request; that would have too much of a “tit for tat” feel and be just as tacky as if you had made your initial contact with them all about you. Instead, continue the conversation, letting it develop in a natural way. The opportunity to talk about your situation and needs will present itself. Don’t try to force it — you want this person to become a lasting ally, not simply someone who does the bare minimum out of obligation to you.

Image courtesy of Stefano Mortellaro

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