Creating a quality network can be a difficult thing. It’s not easy to keep up with your many contacts, offering them help, and hopefully getting helped out once in a while in return. Some of the easiest people to network with are those who you’re closer to: namely, your friends. Don’t upset the delicate balance between friendship and professionals by making mistakes that leave you both burned. Here are things to avoid when asking your friends for networking favors.
Sure, that one friend might have a lot of knowledge. Or they know a lot of people that you would LOVE to know. That doesn’t mean that you can or should constantly ask them to give that knowledge and connections to you. Continuously asking for help will quickly dry up your friendship, especially if you’re not going out of your way to help them in return.
If you’ve asked your friend for a favor within the last few weeks, then try and hold off. Damaging your relationship with them is probably worse than delaying whatever you need the knowledge or connection for. Be considerate of them and their time. They have their own lives, their own careers. Practice consideration by keeping those in mind.
All work, no play
When you do connect up with your friend, don’t charge right into what you want or need. It feels incredibly rude and demeaning to be asked to go out for coffee, and then find out that all the other person wants is what they can get. Spend some time reconnecting with your friend and enjoying being with them. You can and will ask that burning question eventually. Don’t sabotage your efforts—and potentially your friendship—by doing so too early.
There’s a saying that there are no stupid questions. However, there are some that definitely show some ignorance. If you haven’t worked with your friend in a professional way or had professional connections, then don’t ask them to be a reference. They don’t know if you really are a good employee, if you deliver on time, or if you would do well in a particular job. This puts them in a difficult place—having to say no to you. Don’t ask them to provide an irrelevant reference. Instead, ask for their help in other ways. They can look over your resume, let you bounce ideas off of them, and much more.
If your friend feels uncomfortable about introducing you to a connection or—ahem—providing a reference, be sensitive to that. You don’t want them to do something they would feel uncomfortable doing, for whatever reason. It’s probably not personal. You don’t want to pressure them into compromising their career by helping you get ahead in yours. Be aware of subtle body language that can give you a hint, and be willing to give them an easy out so that they don’t feel like they’re offending you.
Your friends can be a great connection in your job hunt or even if you’re settled in your career. Treat that friendship right, as the valuable connection that it is, and you’ll never go wrong. Always practice reciprocity, and your friends will be thankful to have your friendship.