Networking Tip: Offer Help, Don’t Beg for It
“Can you help me get a job?”
Yes, it’s a direct question and to the point, but it also shows a certain neediness by the person who’s asked it.
What if the person asked, “How can I help you?”
Suddenly, the conversation becomes entirely different because an offer is being made.
Networking, along with job hunting, is a two-way street.
If someone only asks for help but is unwilling to give in return, possibilities become limited.
Listen to what the people share with you when you have a conversation with someone at a networking event, BBQ, or gathering. Going into an event with an agenda (e.g., you’re looking for a job, and you only want someone to help you get into the door at a company) is an easy way to self-sabotage yourself.
People will be more willing to help you when you offer them similar help.
Reciprocity is a way to demonstrate trust, healthy boundaries, and accountability.
Also, an offer of help now might become a great connection months later. That’s the power of offering help.
Do an Inventory of Your Skills
So where to start? First, go through a list of your skills and see how you can be of help. Are you good with technology, writing, editing, or design work?
Write your skills down and organize them into logical groups. Not only will your self-assessment help you with networking, but your list can also help your resume.
Once you have a list of your skills, see how you can put them to work to help others.
When you start networking, talk with people, and listen to see how you might help. And if you don’t have a skill you think can help them, is there someone else in your network who you think could assist?
Become an Attractor
Instead of reaching out to all your contacts and letting them know that you’re job hunting, offer specific help to people. Look up organizations in your community and volunteer to help out.
Many small groups seek people with experience with email marketing, website creation, social media, development, or writing and editing skills.
By giving some of your time, you not only help a group that aligns with your values, but you can meet new people and show what you know and how well you work with others.
People will get to know you, and the bond that you create will attract others to you.
Being needy and asking for help all the time can put people off. But when roles are reversed, you ask people: “How can I help?’ lots of opportunities can present themselves.
Attracting people is much better than trying to chase after others. Cold calling or sending that out-of-the-blue email asking someone to help you find a job probably won’t get you anywhere.
But helping others changes the dynamic because you’re no longer seen as needy or desperate.
Help Because You Want to
What groups exist in your community? Can you give of your time in small ways? You might even be able to do a lot of the work virtually. If you’re not sure where to start, search Meetup.com or see if there are any LinkedIn groups that you might want to join. Girl Scouts of America, PTA groups, or your local church or library could also be good places to start.
Help because you want to, not because you’re looking for something in return. There’s nothing easier to spot than someone pretending to help because they only want a favor in return.
Give because you genuinely want to help and maintain a positive mindset.
And if you don’t have time to join a group, see if anyone within your circle might need a favor.
In today’s economy, it’s not uncommon for someone to have a side gig, and you might be able to help by being a fresh set of eyes on their website, a beta reader for a book they’re working on, or even a guest on their podcast.
Keep an open mind and be willing to think differently about the nature of networking. When you reach out to people and see the connection as transactional, you limit your possibilities because the other person will sense your actual motive miles away.
But when you join a group and show up regularly to help, that’s where the magic starts. You might meet new people, build things together, and form connections that blossom into friendships. And over time, when you need to start looking for a job, you won’t have to beg for help. They’ll remember all that you’ve done for them and freely offer you any help they can.
Your actions will always speak louder than your words.
So flip the switch on networking and become a helper. You’ll learn a lot, and it’s also lots of fun.
Ron Vitale is an accomplished digital lead and has successfully overseen the launch of more than a dozen websites; and is currently working as a scrum master on an asynchronous team as a long-term contractor.
His colleagues have come to know him as a diplomatic problem-solver with a proven ability to envision people’s web needs and then launch viable new web-based systems on time and under budget.
Ron is also the author of more than 20 fiction and non-fiction books and uses his author career as a platform to learn new technology and online marketing techniques. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.