Enduring Allies

May 6th, 2006

Networking is not working! It is painful for the majority of networkers and annoying for a large number of recipients. After all, what we call “networking” is a manufactured process based on a tradition in which “old boys” established a mutually beneficial support system (or network of peers, mentors and sponsors) founded on relationship, reputation and reciprocity. Now that we have turned the noun into a verb, many networkers have turned what was once a fulfilling way of living into just one more “should” that is neither appreciated, comfortable nor desired. Many feel compelled to dip in and out of the networking command performance based on current work stability, satisfaction, and situations. We network when we need to, when we have to, when we should. This episodic effort can look like this:

An email arrives in your in-box from a long-ago acquaintance who never really established a relationship with you and whom you remember did not return your last three phone calls, blew you off for lunch, never did business with you. The email is accompanied by an attached (very long and unedited/unfocused) resume. The body of the email states that the writer is in the process of “putting a few feelers” out and, based on a mutual “friend’s” suggestion, is writing to you for advice and information. The email ends with “I look forward to speaking with you”. Have you written one of these lately? Are you a recipient? This may be networking….but it certainly is not a way to build, nurture or expand relationships.

Recently I attended an ACPI conference where Larry Stybel presented a very thought provoking concept which can be found in his article, “Friend, Foe, Ally, Adversary….or Something Else?” He suggests that there are four types of relationships, two of which are constant (friends and enemies) and two which are conditional or changing (allies and adversaries). A friend would respond to any request from you because of the nature of the relationship (unconditional, long term, close, mutual, loyal, deeply connected) while an enemy would rebuff or even undermine you. Others (allies and adversaries) will be helpful or not depending on the level of their own self interest or benefit to them. Thus, if you are contacting friends, you can be assured that they will come through, no matter what, if it is within their power to help. However, since most of the people you know are conditional relationships, you need to recognize that these contacts need to be helped to help you and they need to see that responding to you will in some way help them (either now or in the future).
Based on Larry’s ideas, think about your relationships. Fears of rejection (the main objection to networking) disappear when you think of investing in your allies through give and take, ongoing contact, reciprocity. Make a habit of staying in touch. Show interest and curiosity about your field, a desire to inform, nurture and expand relationships based on mutual benefit. If you are reconnecting with people who have been out of touch, first work on establishing a connection through offering them something or, at least, giving them a reason or purpose to be interested in you.

Build them before you expect them to come to your aid! Manage your expectations to match the realities of the relationships. Be considerate of your contacts. Prepare well for your outreach. If you are in a job change process, scrap the open-ended approach: be targeted, specific and realistic. Before you make the call or write that note/e-mail, ask yourself:
1. What is your history with this individual? Where does s/he fit into your world?
2. What is the true nature of your relationship? A friend will do anything for you, no questions asked. Anyone else needs to be informed, nurtured, and developed into an ally.
3. What does your contact know about you? What does s/he need to know?
4. What, specifically, are your expectations about what your contact can/wants to do for you?
5. Knowing that the likelihood of your contact knowing/having a job for you right now is very low, what is the purpose of your reaching out to him/her?
6. How do you wish to be thought of? Do you want sympathy or support?
7. Be clear about what you are asking for: are you just starting and need focus, know what you are looking for and need to expand your information, exploring options, selecting among alternatives?
8. What can you offer your contact which will help him/her?

To learn more about these elements of relationship management, you are invited to download a complimentary Enduring Allies Tip Sheet

2 comments on “Enduring Allies

  1. Gordon Young on said:

    Good food for thought. It’s chilling to realize how few, true friends we collect. For the past several years I have kept a pile of greeting cards near my desk and have used them to drop quick notes to people as they enter my mind. Nothing to ask for, nothing to sell, just something to have in their mailbox. I’ve found that reaching out to (what I thought were) friends often results in an inquiry that goes off into oblivion — calls not returned, cards w/ no response, etc.
    True, people are very busy these days. These simple acts of reaching out, done on a routine basis, is a great way to set your own mind straight on which camp people are really in and who you could count on, should the need arise.

  2. Kathryn Frias on said:

    Ace site. You have won a brand-new reader. Please keep up the great writings and I look forward to more of your newsworthy posts.

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