5 Steps to Get Help from Your Network
Networking is a popular idea that didn’t seem to have a real term before the last few years, but now everyone wants to know the best way to network. Let’s say you’ve done that already. You spent time building relationships, you kept business cards, and—most importantly—you helped others first. You made an effort to connect people in your network with other connections and information that helped them get a foot up. Now you need help with something. How do you reach out to your network and let them know that you could use their support? Easy!
Here are the 5 steps to reach out to your network on your own behalf
- Think about what you’re going to ask. If you’re thinking that it might be time to change positions and you want to find a new job, how would you bring that up to people in your network? How would you bring that up to someone who maybe knows your boss and knows your company? I’ve found that most bosses don’t get mad when someone leaves for advancement (some do!), but you always want to be tactful. You need to know if what you said to your network connection is repeated to someone else, it doesn’t make you look bad. For instance, “I’m thinking about changing positions because I’ve reached the highest level possible at my job and now it’s time to move on.” That’s a lot better than getting too emotional, talking bad about people, or letting them in on sensitive information even if that’s the truth.
- Think about whom to ask. If I wanted to find someone to help with a volunteer project and I’ve figured out what I need and what I need to communicate to my network, the next step would be thinking about who in my network has those skills. When I needed some computer help, there were only a handful of people that I approached because they have those skills. If I had gone with the “shotgun” approach and just put out a message to everyone I know, it likely would have been missed by the people who actually could have helped, and your network will get annoyed if they’re getting irrelevant messages from you.
- Don’t hide your intentions. If you want to catch back up with someone you haven’t seen in a while and hear how they’re doing, and you also want to ask them to be involved in a company event, don’t hide that last part. It will make you seem insincere if you want to “Just catch up” and then you end up asking them to be a sponsor for your conference. People don’t like those kinds of surprises.
- Understand that people are busy. Some people may not have time for a phone call, but they’d be happy to answer an email. Some people might not have time to meet with you, but they’d be happy to jot some ideas and send them to you, or to just give you the contact info of someone they know who can help. Understand that not everyone is going to want to meet for margaritas and spend all afternoon brainstorming with you and jumping at the idea of helping you for free. Be realistic and be willing in the future to return the favor. You can even suggest a way that you think you can help this person out to let them know that you appreciate their time.
- Either way, don’t take it personally. If you send your resume to someone who says they’ll look it over and give you feedback, and then they never get back to you, don’t take it personally. You asked them to do you a favor and they agreed, but didn’t follow through. They’re either busy, had a technical issue, or just had other priorities and never got to it. It happens. Sure, you might not be eager to help them in the future if they ask something of you, but that doesn’t mean you need to let the current situation ruin your day, or your idea of that person.
I love reaching out to my network just to catch up and see what everyone is doing. That can be grabbing a beer or lunch, and it’s great to just have a break sometimes with your peers in a casual setting. When you need to get something accomplished and want to ask for help, just make sure you’re doing it right and in a way that inspires people to help you without feeling pressured or guilted into it.