HR Insights

Networking in the Internet Age: It’s Still About Building the Relationship

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“Hello sir this is XXXX. I just completed my engineering degree. If you have any opportunities, please let me know.”

“I would like to have a job with your company, please help me.”

“Mr. Ron, please review my resume and give me a job.”

In the course of a week, I get numerous emails of this type. Sometimes it feels as if people think I can just create a job for them even though their skill set does not match up with my company. I also feel that they think I have the time to filter their resume and advise them.

But what amazes me most is the lack of forethought in reaching out to someone, especially on LinkedIn.

Did you read their company profile? Do you know the industry they are in? Have you researched the visa relationship between Saudi Arabia and your country?

I could go on and on.

Do your research

By reading some of these requests, it is so apparent that they did not Google my company. They have no clue as to what we do but are hoping on the premise that we have a job and, just like that, they get it.

My conclusion is that the job seeking skills outside of the U.S. are vastly different.

The directness of requests I get, sometimes even without pleasantries, causes me to shake my head. For the ones that are just totally direct, I will respond with career guidance and suggest a different approach.

What we do in HR always has implications, and we should always keep on our HR hat as much as possible. That may mean following up with a phone call, a short note, or sometimes a weekly call.

I tend to set aside Fridays for these calls since it is our weekend. The job-seeking skills that were more formal in years past, have been disrupted with the advent of Social Media. You can be found and people will just reach out and go straight for the jugular.

It’s about building relationships

One of the other implications of connecting online with people is that as soon as you accept their request to connect, within an hour they reply back with a request. This reminds me of a scene from The Godfather where Don Corleone admonished the funeral director who came to ask a favor but had never asked for friendship.

But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship.

Sometimes, I do respond like Vito Corleone. One person became indignant with my response and flew off the handle. But, I told her she was the one who asked me for a favor and not the other way around.

Building relationships on LinkedIn and social media is for me more than just an acceptance of a request to connect. I genuinely want to help people and try as much as possible to be a resource, mentor, and in some cases, to just lend an ear.

However when your background and qualifications have nothing to do with my company’s business, it shows that you did not even lift one finger to find anything out. That is not a part of my equation for help.

With the Internet, we have the ability to find out anything and everything about any subject. I’m going say that the vast majority of people on LinkedIn are willing to help out other people and make a connection, but we have to go about it the right way.

You gotta build it before you need it

You can’t reach out to someone and right of the bat ask for a favor. People are very busy, and as much as I would like to help, I can’t drop what I’m doing to review your resume, send it out to my contacts, etc.

Do not follow-up before the ink is dry after I accept your connection to make a request. You really need to first build the relationship over a period of time. Asking someone to read your resume and give career advice the same day that they connected with you is not the correct way to go about this.

It’s the same way with event networking. It feels like people today just walk into a room and distributes business cards as if they are a blackjack dealer. They distribute and collect as many cards as possible, however when you take a look at the cards you collected, what is the narrative behind each one?

If, at the end of the night, you can’t recall anything about the card you are looking at, you wasted a personal encounter.

I make a note on every business card I get about some part of the conversation to help jog my memory later, and I capture the card in my computer on an app that I use. It tells me whether they are on LinkedIn, and if they are, I send a request to connect. As a matter of fact, I tell them ahead of time that I will follow-up with an invite.

LinkedIn; The new business card

I have often referred to LinkedIn as the new business card. Sometimes, I will purposely not take business cards and just ask for a LinkedIn invite instead.

Networking today can be profitable and makes senses if you have a sincere interest in helping others instead of just collecting a bunch of connections.

That connection, when it arrives, will be accepted, and I send a short note about mutual interests, or inquiry about how we may help each other. I will normally follow-up with a “if there is anything I can do to help, feel free to reach out ” message.

In other words, our connection model should not be about spilling our guts but about finding out about this person and how we can serve or help them.

Spend more time getting to know those with whom you do meet, paving the way for what eventually may turn into a mutually rewarding relationship Contemporary networking is all about building relationships and expanding your own circle of personal and business friendships. Down the road, after appropriate follow-up, a meeting over a cup of coffee is always appropriate.

Building long-lasting relationships

The book Never Eat Alone  by Keith Ferrazi states that connecting is a constant process of giving and receiving that starts with a genuine interest in the other person. Never be the one at an event with the wandering eye, when we are engaged in conversation, but visually, we are “working the room.” If you think others do not notice, you are kidding yourself.

Every encounter should allow you to plant the seeds for your follow-up activities that may develop into a long and lasting relationship. I have met some of the most amazing people online, and we have never come face-to-face, but it seems as if we have been friends for years.

In order for modern networking to work for us, we must remember the protocol of yesterday even in the new era of social media.

Yes, even today, you must still build the relationship BEFORE you need it.

Ron Thomas is a human resources officer currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He formerly was director, talent and human resources solutions at Buck Consultants (a Xerox Company) and is certified by the Human Capital Institute as a Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner (SWP). He's also worked in senior HR roles with Martha Stewart Living and IBM. Ron serves on the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy. He also serves as a faculty partner and executive facilitator at the Human Capital Institute. He has received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence by the World Human Resource Development Congress in Mumbai. Contact him at ronaldtthomas@gmail.com or on Twitter.
  • Gail Fletcher

    May your wise counsel fall on receptive ears! Why is this common sense approach still so elusive to otherwise intelligent folks? Loss of interpersonal skills secondary to screen time? It does keep many of uscoaches in business, though.

  • Rosemarri Klamn

    Building the relationship and authenticity is always important, especially with social media. Mike McCready, my social media mentor has coached me to listen, reflect and share helpful information as I slowly build a presence online, and to be authentic. LinkedIn has been the most useful tool in networking online for me as it provides a mechanism to see other professional’s background and to instantly find areas of common ground. Wearing my Career Development/Human Resources hat I always enjoy connecting people to job opportunities – it is fun making the connections.

    I like your suggestions about writing linkedin profiles on business cards and notes on connecting at networking events. Thanks ! Rosemarri Klamn, MA, CHRP