Focus on giving, not taking
A wide network is only valuable if you approach it with the goal of
helping others, not only to receive help.
Altruism doesn’t typically drive networking. When someone asks to
grab coffee, they’re often looking for something in return — such as
a candidate recommendation. Here’s the problem—asking without giving
bothers people. It makes your contacts feel like they’re being used,
so they’re unmotivated to help you or take you up on your offer to
meet for coffee.
You’ll get more value out of your network if you focus on ways you
can give back to your contacts. Approach every relationship with the
intention of helping that person build their career or their own
connections. If your mindset is authentic, your contacts will
appreciate you and be more likely to help the next time you’re
filling a role.
There are endless ways you can be of service to the contacts in your
Extend a helping hand to rejected candidates. When I reject
candidates, I welcome them to contact me if they want help with
negotiations if and when they receive an offer from a different
company. It’s a valuable skill to share— we regularly negotiate as
recruiters, whereas most people only try negotiating sporadically.
Offering to help someone negotiate who is not even being hired at my
company may seem like a waste of time, but it’s helping me develop a
new contact who will remember my assistance and be happy to return
the favor in the future.
Share industry advice with students at your alma mater. Contact
your college’s career center to let them know you’re available to
chat with students who are interested in HR and recruiting.
Use your recruiter’s eye to help contacts job search. With your
firsthand knowledge of job postings and screening applications, you,
more than anyone else, can help contacts find their dream role. You
might, for example, help people in your network by editing their
resumes and LinkedIn profiles or running practice interviews with
Keep in mind, helping others doesn’t always pay off with a talent
recommendation. Giving back is a long game. If you consistently
help people in their career journey, you’ll eventually build a
rich network of people who want to help you in return.
Build your schedule around networking
The key to consistently helping contacts is booking networking
into your calendar. Otherwise, you probably won’t prioritize it.
Your schedule is already packed as a recruiter, and let’s face
it—networking isn’t a natural muscle. In the beginning, it feels
awkward to put yourself out there.
Commit to networking regularly, and you’ll gradually become better
at nurturing your professional relationships. I know this from
experience—I was terrible at networking when I was younger. I was
happy to meet people in my industry, but I didn’t actively connect
with professional contacts and maintain these relationships over
My skills dramatically improved when I set a networking goal for
myself. About 10 years ago, I committed to meeting someone for
coffee at least once a week for one year. Today, my network is at
least 5 times bigger thanks to that effort.
Grow your professional relationships by carving out time for
networking in your calendar:
Network at least once a week. Set up a phone call (or video
chat) or grab coffee with someone you know. After a few months,
you’ll be more comfortable connecting with contacts.
Schedule a recurring weekly event in your calendar. Regularity
is key to building any habit, and networking is no exception. Over
time, your brain will anticipate your weekly meeting, and
networking will feel less like a chore.
Setting a clear goal doesn’t just increase the likelihood of you
networking—it will also make the task more rewarding. After a few
months, you’ll be able to reflect on how many more relationships
you’ve built thanks to the objective you set.
Target local speaking opportunities
Giving back to your network doesn’t always have to be on an
individual level. Help multiple people at once by speaking at an
event and sharing your recruiting insights.
You don’t have to be the next headliner at ERE to grow your
network. I prefer local events for making multiple connections at
one time. These events are small and intimate, so you have an
opportunity to build meaningful professional relationships—not
just LinkedIn friend requests.
The local connections I make at these events are incredibly
valuable for candidate sourcing. Employers want applicants who are
grounded in their region and more likely to stay at the company.
The people you meet at local events are most likely based in that
area, and they could very well be your next talented applicant.
Or, they may know someone in the region who would be a great fit
for your next role.
Start building your presence in your community as an events
speaker with these strategies:
Use social media to find events.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Meetup are all useful resources
for finding local job fairs, university events, and small
conferences that are looking for recruiters to participate as
Attend these events. You have to be engaged in these events as a
participant before you can expect an invitation to speak.
Be in it for the long game. If you’re only speaking to boost
your personal brand, your head isn’t in the right place. The
primary goal is to help people in your community strengthen their
careers. Every year, for example, I host a career event at Google
for students from my alma mater. I’m not there for the free swag—I‘m
there to help students define their career path and meet their
Appreciate the small size of local events. It gives you the
opportunity to connect with more attendees and help them by
sharing your knowledge. In return, you’re more likely to be
introduced to potential applicants who would love to join a local
Master the art of the follow-up
Meeting people is only the first half of networking. The
second—and arguably more important—half is nurturing those
A simple, yet powerful, way to keep connections alive is sending a
follow-up email. It’s a chance to show the person that you’re
grateful for the connection and it’s an opportunity to keep the
conversation moving forward.
The message varies slightly between new and existing contacts. For
someone I just met, I’ll mention a topic we discussed when we met
to jog their memory. If I’m trying to reconnect with an existing
contact, I’ll send a message to check in about their work and ask
how they’re doing.
Regardless of the recipient, a follow-up email should include the
following pieces to reignite the relationship:
A thank you: Acknowledge and appreciate the connection to show
the contact you value their relationship.
Specific, personal details to show your contact that you’re
paying attention to their career and invested in helping them.
When I follow up with existing contacts, for example, I’ll mention
a problem they were trying to solve when we last spoke and ask how
that is going.
Next steps: Keep the relationship moving forward by including a
call to action. With a new contact you met at a local event, for
example, end the email with an invitation to grab coffee.
Following up takes practically no effort, but the payoff is
massive. The message makes contacts feel appreciated, so they’re
more likely to reconnect and do what they can to help you build
By consistently building and nurturing professional relationships,
you’re more likely to receive support from your network when
you’re in need of help—whether it’s sourcing a candidate for an
open role, or when you’re looking for a new role yourself.