July 23, 2018 ・ Written by T.J. Duane

Worst. Networking. Ever.

You’d have to see it to believe it.

Worst. Networking. Ever.

We try to keep things positive on BrightCrowd. But sometimes the best way to learn is by observing what NOT to do. A BrightCrowd member shared this painful networking interaction with me, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s exactly the kind of networking interaction I want to prevent.

If you’ve got a strong stomach, read on.

(Names and scenarios have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.)

Bad Networker: I was wondering if you can provide some advice on places to network that offer policy internships for grad students.

This is…direct, to say the least. You never want to start a message to a stranger this way. Give them some context! Why did you write them? What’s your background? These details are crucial, because they can establish some common ground before you dive into your request.

This networker was lucky he reached out to a very caring, very helpful alum.

Helpful Alum: The State Department does. I worked there for many years, and we had interns. I’m not sure how the hiring process works, but I’m happy to put you in touch with one of the interns who worked with me, sound good?

Bad Networker: Yes of course! Thank you, that would be appreciated. Please do anything you can to bolster my chances of networking and success.

While I’m glad this guy said “thanks”, the end of this message totally undermines his gratitude. A stranger just offered to put him in touch with a contact who has been exactly in Bad Networker’s shoes. That’s crazy valuable. Asking for more at this point is a bit rude.

And I’ve got to address the idea of “bolstering my chances of networking and success.”

Networking isn’t something you can succeed at. It’s just something we all do, every time we help each other out or connect people together. And “success” (whatever that means) doesn’t necessarily follow from networking — building a career is a much longer process than that.

Most interactions won’t yield job offers directly, and that’s OK. Networking is an opportunity to learn something about another person and build a relationship. Nothing more, nothing less. Anyway, the Helpful Alum provided the contact information for the person he thought could help and the networker reached out to him.

Then the Bad Networker had the audacity to respond with this:

Bad Networker: I just spoke with your contact, but he’s no longer affiliated with the State Department. He had insight on the application process, but I’m seeking the opportunity to actually apply and meet recruiters.

Do you have any other contacts that would be interested in supporting my efforts?

Yikes. This is just bad form. You should never complain that a connection (given generously) didn’t yield exactly the results you were hoping for.

Even in light of this response, the alum was kind enough to provide a link to a website with more information, but this interaction left him feeling used (and a little annoyed).

That’s not how it should be. When you’re networking, you should always be put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you want to be treated by someone who is asking for your help? There is an art to asking and this is not it.

Fortunately there are thousands of helpful alums like this one on BrightCrowd, so if you need help or advice just ask (but be thoughtful).