I'm Tired of People Wanting to Network With Me

Last Updated May 5, 2011 2:07 PM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,
Will you please stop telling people to network in order to find jobs? I appreciate the need to keep in contact with former colleagues and to speak with people I meet at professional conferences. I know that I will some day want a new job and I hope my contacts will help me.
But, I'm happily employed. In fact, the problem is I have a good job with a good company. I swear everyone I've ever passed on the street has tried to get me to get them a job. If I worked with you in the past, it might make sense. But, just because your cousin is my next door neighbor, doesn't mean you now have an "in" at my company.
I get LinkedIn requests from people I've never met, but they've seen my name along with my company, so they send a request. I'm tired of it. Tell people to stop. I feel guilty not helping these people, but I also refuse to recommend someone if I don't know what kind of worker they are.

Certainly. Everyone stop annoying this poor person.

Somehow, I don't think that will help. I would lecture you about how you should be grateful that you have a job, but that gets tiresome as well. I could also lecture the people who send LinkedIn requests to people who have no clue who you are--well, I can't stop myself. Will you people knock it off? Unless you can write a darn good introduction explaining why you should be LinkedIn then don't send the request. That drives ME nuts.

Ahem. Sorry about that.

But, what I can do is talk about why you should be careful before kicking these people to the curb. Networking isn't just about finding a job, or helping someone else find a job. It's about building and maintaining professional relationships. You never know when you will need these relationships again.

We are all familiar with the fact that most of us will, at some future date, need (or want) a new job. But, what about when you need to buy new software? You mean it's not just the salesperson you're supposed to rely on? What about their carefully screened testimonials?

Yeah, right. What you want is someone who has actually worked with the software to tell you how it really works. Someone who isn't on the payroll of the company. That's where your network comes in.

This also helps for any product you want to buy, or any major problem you want to solve. People will often jump at the chance to help someone else out, not just because most people are good people, but because they see it as an opportunity to build a relationship with someone else who might be able to answer their question one day.

Now, I agree with you about not recommending someone for a job if you aren't familiar with their work. If it's someone you know socially, but not professionally, it's okay to say, "I'm happy to forward your resume on to the hiring manager for you," and then do just that. You can tell the hiring manager the truth, "I've never worked with this person, but he's my neighbor and he seems like a great guy."

But, what if the job seeking hopeful doesn't seem like a great guy? In fact, you'd rather stick pins in your eyes than have to work with him. Then say to the neighbor, "Thanks for your resume. I'll submit it for you." And then submit it through your company's HR system. That gives you the chance of getting a referral bonus, but you don't have to directly recommend the person. If you're asked, you can be honest in your assessment.

And let that be a lesson to you annoying neighbor types who have loud parties or never mow your lawn. Someday you'll want to work for that little old lady next door's company and you won't get a job if your garbage cans are left at the curb all week.

You can also say, flat out, no to someone. You can have a blanket policy of not mixing business with friendships (although, some of the people asking for assistance can hardly be called friends), or you can just say, "I can only recommend people who I've actually worked with or know well. I wish you the best of luck." If you're feeling extra nice, you can volunteer to take a look at their resumes.

Just keep in mind that we're sometimes in a position to help and sometimes we're in a position to be helped. This is your time to help. Next time you may need to be helped.

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