The Cardinal Networking Rule: Have You Broken It?

In recent weeks, we’ve heard a disturbing number of accounts from clients and business contacts who have offered referrals to people, but never actually heard back whether the individual in question took them up on the proffered leads and introductions.  The horror, the horror.  Such behavior is not only inexcusable, and anathema to one’s professional reputation, but also violates one of the cardinal rules of networking — which is that if you ask people to take the trouble to help you, you are then fundamentally obligated to take them up on the assistance offered!

Now I know what you’re thinking — surely most of you out there have never violated this rule in a blatant sense and are as appalled as I am to hear that such behavior exists.  Have you come close to committing a violation, however?  Or flirted more than you should with the boundaries of this rule?  For example, even job seekers who are running an otherwise classy, professional marketing campaign often let certain leads lapse for more than a week before acting on them.  This is too long.  Not only does it diminish the perception that you’re serious about reaching your goals, but also can backfire if the original referring party reaches out to the contact in the meantime on your behalf.  Additionally, we’ve seen many people blow off a piece of advice (“I appreciate the thought, but don’t really see how that person could help”) without fully thinking it through — as well as folks who actually do follow up on a given introduction, but then fail to circle back around to the initial party to communicate the results of the meeting.

The failure to follow this latter networking “success habit” is a behavior we find particularly mystifying, because providing quick follow-ups to your contacts about the help they’ve provided solves the problem of “why would I bug them again?” and gives you a perfect built-in excuse for making the next networking contact!  So going forward, be highly conscious of this dynamic and ask yourself whether you are making networking follow-up an appropriately high priority on your daily to-do list.  It’s not only the right thing to do, but it leverages the truth of the old saying: “the best way to get somebody to like you is to let them do you a favor!” Counterintuitive, for sure, but a sentiment we think is right on the money.


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