Passive Personal Networking: How to Let Others Network for You

Talking to some friends recently, I’ve realized that many people don’t think of themselves as networkers. They are reluctant to get started playing that “game”. Even when they are highly capable engineers looking for a new position at a startup, they don’t want to “ask their friends to find them a job.”

Everyone knows that networking is the best way to get a job. Not everyone is prepared to attend “networking events”, hand out business cards to people they meet, or spend all their time maintaining professional relationships. If you are one of these people, I have good news. You can still benefit from networking to find jobs and other opportunities. Merely by being non-hostile, open to the possibility of networking, you can benefit from the networks of people you already know, your friends and coworkers.

The reason is simple: networkers need you. People in the world who network, who spend lots of time maintaining relationships, are participating in a gift economy. They trade favors, introductions, contacts, and other information. Most networkers are looking for win-win situations, connections they can make which benefit both parties. When they get you a job, they are also helping someone fill a position.

These networkers need raw material, which comes from people like you who are not otherwise plugged into the network. By being open to networking, you let them help you. Here are three simple principles to be open to networking:

  • Be open. When you meet someone socially, and they are interested in you, tell them about yourself. If you are looking for a new job, or new opportunities, or about to finish a program at school, or an expert in some part of your field, feel free to volunteer that fact. This isn’t begging, it is giving people the opportunity to help you out.
  • Be specific. The more specific you are when telling people about your interests, the easier it is for them to help. No one wants to flood their network with a request for “a job”, but if you are “an experienced robotics engineer looking for a clean tech startup,” that message is valuable and easy to route to the right place.
  • Be appreciative. People who network do it because they like helping people. But do not immediately respond with a gift or other token. Networking is long term game, and there will likely be opportunities to reciprocate in the future. Or you can pay it forward, by doing your own part to help others in a similar way.

Networking doesn’t have to mean pushy conversations with strangers. By maintaining your existing social relationships, and being open, specific, and appreciative, you can let other people do the networking for you. Good luck.

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