by Steve Adubato, PhD

There are countless books and Web sites that talk about the importance of networking. Having a great Rolodex or database is important, but how you communicate with your networking contacts may be even more critical. There is a fine line between being persistent and being a pest. Where is that line and how do you know when you have crossed it? How do you make your contacts feel as if you are not using and abusing them?

With these questions in mind, consider some tips when communicating with your networking contacts:

  • Realize that it’s a favor when someone introduces you to someone else for a potential job. It IS an imposition. Too many people think that others have a responsibility to help them find a job. They don’t. It is important to communicate how much you APPRECIATE the efforts of a networking contact. Get in the habit of saying THANK YOU, over the phone, via e-mail, or a handwritten note.
  • Make it a two-way street. Business is about relationships. It is about communicating your concern and interest in others. Seek ways to share valuable information that can be helpful to a networking contact who is helping you. The key is to RECIPROCATE and to be seen as a valuable resource as opposed to simply just another person looking for a job.
  • If you communicated via e-mail or over the phone with a networking contact and you haven’t heard back within 24-hours, count to ten and take a breather. Don’t call back or e-mail immediately. Give your contact a chance to think about what you are asking for and to deal with it in a way that makes sense for him. Being persistent has its place, but as soon as you are seen as a pest your prospects for getting help are significantly diminished.
  • Don’t take advantage. A financial advisor recently asked a client for five names of others he might sit down and attempt to sell. The client gave the five names. A month later the financial advisor called back and said, “Hey Bob, I appreciate those five names you gave me. Do you have five more?” You’ve got to be kidding. That’s abusive. Not only did the financial advisor lose Bob as a client, but Bob shared with others how greedy he thought the advisor was.
  • Expand your base of contacts. The more contacts you have, the less likely you are to be communicating too often with a select few. This takes work on your part. Use your imagination. Really think about who you have interacted with in the past and who might have a positive impression of you and what you may bring to the table. Go through the business cards you have collected over the years. The more contacts you have, the more possibilities will be raised and the more new contacts you will get.
  • Empathize and be realistic. Think about the position your networking contact is in and his or her ability to get something done. Don’t say, “Hey, Joe, do you think you can get me a meeting with Donald Trump?” just because Joe happens to work at one of Trump’s casinos. Think before you ask.
  • Close the loop. Make sure you update your contact with your progress, even if it hasn’t turned into an employment opportunity. Don’t communicate every detail, but those your contact should know about. Being left in the dark after you’ve tried to help someone leaves a bad impression of that person. Plus, you will be less likely to be helpful in the future.