Unlike the “old days” of the nineties, when the concept of networking (at least as a formal, planned activity) was just coming into vogue, and people were hesitant to engage in it, I’m constantly impressed by how many people today seem to understand the importance of networking and relationship-building as part of their ongoing career efforts.

While there are many well-intentioned souls out there networking their buns off, however, I still see people engaging in some practices that will definitely limit the results they receive.  Perhaps the most common one, at least with regard to professionals going through job transition, is to send off a signal of “save me” or “rescue me” versus the much more productive “help me” vibe.  As you can imagine, the former attitudes are far less effective, since few people are in the “saving” business these days and many individuals will be instantly turned off (although they may disguise it well) by a job seeker who doesn’t seem to be focused, have a game plan, or appears to be expecting somebody else to come along and solve their problem for them.

So if you’re in transition, yourself, you’ll want to monitor your networking activities carefully and take the steps necessary to ensure that you’re not giving off the wrong impression, either consciously or unconsciously.  To help with this determination, here’s a quick breakdown of some of the WRONG and INEFFECTIVE types of networking requests, versus the type that produce better results:

Ineffective “Save Me” Networking Requests

“Do you know of any job openings that would fit me?”
“Do you know of any companies that I should be talking to?”
“Do you know any people I should contact?”
“What kinds of jobs do you think I should be targeting?”
“Here’s my resume — please pass it along to anybody you know.”

Effective “Help Me” Networking Requests

“I saw an opening over at Blue Nile the other day that really interests me; do you happen to know anybody at that organization who might be able to help me get a foot in the door?”

“I’ve spent the past week building a list of 25 companies where I think my skills would fit like a glove; would you mind reviewing this list for a second and letting me know if you’ve heard anything about any of these firms?”

“While I’m always open to new connections, I’d particularly like to make contact with a few venture capitalists around town, since I think my start-up experience would be a perfect fit for some of their portfolio companies.  Is there any chance you have any VC folks in your network to whom you’d be comfortable making an introduction on my behalf?”

“While I’ve got a pretty diverse skill set, and could wear a lot of different hats for organizations, I’ve been researching some of the current needs that companies are facing most these days — and have decided to put some serious effort into finding a facilities management role, since that’s one area of my background I’m particularly passionate about.”

“Here’s my resume — since I haven’t had to write one in a while, however, I’d greatly appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to look it over and share your feedback, especially since I know you’ve been involved in a lot of hiring over the years.  Any thoughts on how to polish it up even further would be greatly appreciated.”

As you can hopefully see from the above examples, there’s a world of difference between the job hunter that seems rudderless, and floundering, and the job hunter who seems to be pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, doing their homework, and only asking for help with those specific activities that they can’t perform themselves!

I know it can be hard to kick into this kind of proactive, action-oriented mode when you’re between jobs, and feeling a lot of pressure and anxiety, but it’s absolutely essential to getting successful results out on the networking circuit.  And despite the incessant drumbeat of negative news reports out there, I still have tremendous faith in human nature and the willingness of the average person to lend a hand to other people in need.  I just feel the bar has been raised a little bit due to the numbers of people currently seeking favors and referrals — and as a result, while many individuals will still cheerfully “jump on the bandwagon” of people who seem to be helping themselves, they’ll tend to brush off those folks who just seem to be trolling for leads or merely looking for a handout!