Good networking in business is about give and take. And the best networkers give more than they take. Sadly, there are far too many who practice the exact opposite.
I could fill a book with the names of people who have asked me to review their résumés, write them recommendation letters, serve as a reference, grant informational interviews or make introductions on their behalf. In nearly all cases* I’m happy to oblige, even when to do so impinges on my own workload. I also delight in being a connector—fixing up my acquaintances (often unsolicited) when I think there could be a mutual benefit from their knowing one another.
Which is why I struggle with personalities who are not shy about asking for favors but neglect to express their thanks after the fact. No matter how busy you are, you have zero excuse not to thank someone who has gone out of the way to grant you a solid. Like walking through a door a stranger has held for you and not saying “thank you,” accepting another’s goodwill and then forgetting all about it has wide-ranging repercussions. As in: The giver is going to think twice about repeating such generosity in the future. Whether for you or for someone else.
With that in mind, here are my best practices for asking for (and accepting) the benevolence of others in business:
1) Don’t Be Pushy
Just because a person has the ability to grant your request does not equal obligation to do so. If the other party is too busy, unwilling or unable to comply, you can’t allow that fact to tarnish your relationship.
2) Offer More than You Ask
Requesting big favors and never offering any of your own will quickly earn you a reputation as a taker. (And perhaps even a friendship faker.) Be a giver…think of it as building your credit score. The higher your score, the more likely it is you’ll get “loan offers,” i.e.—connection opportunities—without even asking.
3) Make it Easy
If you want contacts to write you a letter of recommendation, provide them with any background information they need to do so. Give them plenty of time, too. Asking for favors at the last-minute is inconsiderate, and will likely deliver inferior results. Also, if you’re offering up someone’s name as a reference, be sure you have cleared it with the individual before passing along any contact info.
4) Be Thankful
Not every favor granted calls for a flower arrangement, a cookie basket or a thank-you dinner, but at the very least, it calls for an expression of genuine thanks. (And no, a text message that reads “Thx” does not cut it.) Be certain you don’t leave your contact in the dark! If the connection has resulted in something positive for you (a business deal, a job, a foot in the door), keep the favor-granter posted. What greater joy than to know the efforts have borne fruit.
5) Pay it Forward
With apologies to Taylor Swift, the “Takers gonna take, take, take, take, take.” So last but not least, don’t be a taker; aim to give twice as much as you request. After all, tis better to give than to receive.
*There are instances when I decline providing a recommendation or connection, such as when I don’t believe in the abilities of the person doing the asking or when I don’t think the connection would spell mutual benefit for both parties. I work hard to build a trusted network of contacts, and I know you do, too. Maintain the integrity of your list by respecting that sometimes, a connection is simply not meant to be.