We all have those friends who ask for something without giving anything in return. “Can you just look this over?” “Would you mind proofing/reviewing/writing this short piece for me?” “Let’s meet for coffee—I’d love to pick your brain.”
Um, sure. That’s what I usually charge a client for.
Repeatedly using your network like this can certainly annoy colleagues. But even worse, it can negatively impact your career search. Here’s how:
If you continually take from your network but never ask “how can I help you,” your network is going to be increasingly less willing to lend a hand. You risk becoming the girl who cried wolf. There are few times when your network will be as vital as when you’re making a career change (internally or externally). But if you’ve made it a habit to ask for help without offering to help first, you won’t get many return calls when you need it most.
It speaks to your character. The fact of the matter is, people want to help people who are there for them. When you’re constantly putting yourself first, people assume that you’re selfish or self-centered. No one wants to do business with that person.
Leaders aren’t takers. A few years ago, “servant leadership” was the buzz phrase nationwide. While the hype has died down, the underlying philosophy is still true. The best leaders are those you want to follow—and no one wants to follow a selfish person. If you’re constantly worried about your own gain, you aren’t motivating a team or educating them on how to achieve success. People hire leaders. They don’t hire takers.
Building a network is a career-long and even a lifelong process. I can call on my network whenever I need them, because I don’t call very often for myself. Instead, I’m reaching out to learn how I can help and what their needs might be. There may be an opportunity for me to cash that in someday…but there might not, and that’s ok. A network is as much about giving as it is receiving.
Sometimes people get carried away with the idea of seeking input and advice and fail to realize the impact it has on other busy professionals. If you don’t see yourself here, do you see someone you know? Share this post! Then take a moment to reach out to your network and see how you can lend a hand. It’s a two-way street, and when it works, everyone can get where they’re going!