Ever been in a job-giving scenario? It is very natural to first think of people who you already know and who you can trust. It is natural to want to hire someone who you know can get the job done—efficiently and well, who you can get along with (and who you believe others will get along with too).
Networks are much like a plant. A plant must be cared for, nurtured—not neglected. We all know what happens when we ignore a plant—it dies and goes away. Networks are very similar in this respect. They require attention, dedication and persistence of care.
Networking is a two-way street. We cannot only take, for if we do, that connection will tire and vanish.
In utilizing our networks, we must be mindful that we are very careful about the favors we ask, as favors can be used up quickly. If you go to the same people for favors over and over again, they will tire of your approach and will recede from you.
In order to keep our networks effective and functioning, we must reciprocate. In other words, we must help others. Giving and contributing to others can be a very satisfying experience and you need not help people in only monetary fashion. Help can be given in the form of personal connections, referrals, use of personal energy, in the sharing of resources. There is a joy that can be found in giving and serving others and in finding and practicing such joy, inevitably, that joy comes back to you. What goes around…
This said, be mindful of those who do not play fairly and who only take, for they are vampires. Hanging out with vampires is rarely a healthful experience.
In the past, I have had students ask if this is not a cold and mechanical line of thinking. To such a thought I respond with, “This is a realistic way of thinking”. Such is business. It is wonderful when we are able to befriend our colleagues and business partners, but to do so is a bonus, not a requirement. More often than not, business relationships are circumstantial. Remove the circumstance that binds you and the relationship can go away.
If you are going to ask your network for favors, be prepared to reciprocate in kind. If they ask you for a favor in return, say, “Yes”, if at all possible. Doing so, nourishes the vitality of the plant.