One of the most serious mistakes you can make these days is made by numerous people on a daily basis; failing to stay in touch with those who they had previously reached out to, especially if it was initially for help.
Think about this for a moment. Suppose I contacted you personally for help as I was looking for employment. Maybe in this scenario I asked you to stand as a reference for me, help me with my resume, refer me to someone you know as a way to kick-start my next job etc. If you had helped me in my request for your help and then I stopped contacting you altogether once I got a job, how would you feel?
You might feel used, taken advantage of, you might even feel that you had me figured wrong; that instead of really knowing how to network and value people, instead you’re wondering if I just use and abuse my contacts for my own gain and don’t give back.
I have connections online like this. Based on my profession, I’ve had some people contact me for various kinds of help related to getting employment, who after a couple of weeks and several emails, thank me for the help and then the silence is deafening. Now there could be many reasons for that silence of course, I get that. Something to ponder though is how receptive others may be a second time to pleas for help if the helper feels the dialogue is useful one way only.
The best connections, conversations, networking and communicating is good for not just one person, but for both people involved. So should you be reaching out for help, (which is never a bad idea), what have you got to offer in return? Need ideas? Maybe you can share a resource, a valued connection of your own, a future offer of help when you’re in the right head space to lend it, make a recommendation on LinkedIn stating how helpful the person has been or maybe even just a genuine thanks for help.
Lest you wonder if I’m penning this because I recently got spurned or burned by someone or some people, the answer is no. I won’t deny in the past I’ve had connections do all the things I’ve mentioned here, but that’s long ago and not my motivation. Personally I don’t even mind. My mission through my connections is to serve, not self-serve. My motivation in writing this is to help you, my reader, help you both in the short and long-term.
Look at your LinkedIn connections for example. No doubt that if you are using it as intended, you’ve acquired some contacts that you may have never met face to face and / or have not communicated with in some time. It might not be such a bad idea to dash off a brief email to a few each day or so, just thanking them for being a connection of yours, telling them how things are going, and asking how they are faring.
If you only connect and speak with others when you need their help, you run a risk of being seen as a desperation connection; someone who only makes contact in times of crisis. There are some who like myself, don’t actually mind having some connections such as these, and it’s flattering in a way to be the go to person in others times of need. However, there are others who don’t like being in what they see as dependency relationships; needed and then discarded. You don’t want to run the risk of being viewed as self-absorbed, taking and never giving back.
And here’s a thought: How busy can your life truly be that you can’t find the time to dash off a short email asking how someone else is doing and bringing them up to date with your own situation? If you can find the time in times of need, find the time in other times too.
Ever been witness to someone who breezes by saying, “How are you?” but they don’t ever stop to hear the answer? They don’t have any real desire to know how you are but ask out of social convention. If you answered, “Well actually not so great really” they might reflexively answer, “That’s wonderful”, and keep walking having not really wanted an answer let alone listened. Don’t be that person on social media. If you are going to sincerely ask, be prepared for an answer; maybe good maybe not.
It’s ironic really that in this age of technology we can stay in touch with people more than ever before, and we can expand our social and professional circles easier than ever before, meeting people we will never see in the flesh. We call them, ‘friends’ or ‘connections’, but by definition our term, ‘friends’ has to be different that what it once meant just a couple of generations ago.
Remember communication is a two-way thing; it requires dialogue both ways. Do your part to establish and nurture your connections and conversations so that they are productive for not just you but for those with whom you are communicating. Unsure of what to talk about, what help you could possible give or what you could possibly share in terms of resources or connections? Simple….ask them.
IF you want to be a valued connection, BE a valued connection.