When is it OK to utilize your network?

When is it OK to utilize your network?

Reach out to your connections when in need, but do it right
Reach out to your connections when in need, but do it right

So, if you’ve been reading my latest posts about networking (https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/27/the-advantages-of-being-accessible/

And https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/17/you-are-the-sum-of-your-connections/)

Then surely you realize it is important and very much possible to cultivate a large network of connections.

But when and how can one utilize this awesome network of followers?

First let’s dwell on why I refer to the action of asking something from your network as “utilizing”? well, I consider my network one of my greatest resources, and I utilize it regularly- as a reader base, to ask specific questions and even the odd “ can you help me get a job at your firm” request.

So now that we’ve established this is a resource, one must wonder how not to abuse or over use it- or, simply put- one must ass when and how I can utilize this awesome network of followers?

Well, like everything else in life – the answer is “it depends”. It depends on your need, urgency and level of intimacy with the person you wish to engage.

The need- simply put, is the person qualified to help you with what you need to do? If she is 100% relevant to what you want to achieve (for instance, is in charge of recruiting in a firm you want approach) than it’s ok to approach her and simply ask what it is you want her to do (introduce you to someone, sample your product, provide feedback on your website etc.).

Urgency- this is easy to grasp- sometime speed is of the essence- like when a new job opening is posted on a company website and you happen to know someone from the inside who can make sure your friend’s CV is one of the first to make it to the recruiter’s desk. Or when you really need to reach out to someone now. Most people appreciate that “desperate times” call for desperate means and if you will explain why the request is urgent they are likely to accept even if otherwise they would have rejected the request.

Intimacy- in today’s world of loosely related networks (also known as “weak connections” we cannot expect the same level of intimacy as before. And yet, there is a wide spectrum of degrees of closeness. Starting from the obvious- Family and close friends are pretty much open to help request anytime. Weaker connections and ones which are purely virtual- people you’ve never met, spoken to or even emailed, but are connected to on Social media ) are less likely to assist, given that they don’t actually know you.

Given that you’ve considered these factors and decided to move ahead and utilize the connection, please bear the following principles in mind:

  1. Be polite: You are making a move here, so the reasonability is on you. Be polite, use proper grammar and respect the other side (don’t “Bro” anyone you are not actually bros with). It will go a long way in helping the other side to decide to assist you.
  1. Be specific: Tell them why you approached them, why now and what it is you expect them to do. The worse case scenario is someone telling you it’s out of their reach, but more positive outcomes could be that people who wants to help but can’t/ not capable of, will often direct you (or even approach on you behalf) another individual who could be of help.
  1. Don’t erode your currency- Don’t ask multiple times the same request, don’t bug people if you don’t get an answer. Being “connected” to someone does not mean you have the right to annoy and spam. And respect the “No”- if someone refuses to help accept it and move on. Fighting such a person will seriously erode your credibility for the next time you have a need for assistance.
  2. Be willing to give back- reciprocation, even if not specifically mentioned, is to be expected. If you are not comfortable with someone asking you to reciprocate with an introduction to a guy in your firm, don’t ask them a similar thing in the first place.

Conclusion

It was said that in ancient China, if you managed to get some face time you could have asked for anything, it would have been given to you. This made sense because such a tiny percentage of the population ever had a chance of actually meeting their ruler, so if one had the resources and means to achieve this it was usually important enough so the emperor would abide by the request. Today you don’t have to wait a lifetime to ask anyone (even famous and powerful people) anything. And yet, it might be sensible to think of the story of the emperor and save the requests for important stuff. Building a large network of connection is easier than ever before, but that does not mean we need to abuse this powerful resource.

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