Networking is how things get done in this world, and if you want to get ahead, you have to know how to cultivate relationships with people who are in a position to help you. Meeting such individuals is often a brazen act – you walk up to someone at a conference and introduce yourself, you send an e-mail to a stranger asking for an informational interview, or you invite a long-admired potential mentor to lunch.
But like everything else, networking taken to an extreme can be dangerous, and lately I’ve been hearing horror stories about people who just can’t put on the brakes when it comes to their networking activities. The worst phenomenon is something I call stalker networking, and this is where you meet a contact and then proceed to nag that person incessantly for the next several weeks or months.
A friend of mine approached me recently with this dilemma. He had generously granted a half-hour informational interview to a recent college grad, and she latched onto him like mold on cheese, constantly e-mailing him and calling his work AND cell phones to inquire about job opportunities. This went on for a really long time until my friend was so frustrated he was looking for any excuse just to get rid of her.
It’s better to do no networking at all than to be perceived by a potentially valuable contact as a nuisance. I urge you to remember that contacts are busy, and are balancing the needs of a whole lot of people who are higher up on the priority list than you. Be respectful of their time, and don’t expect them to bend over backwards to help you until you’ve established a rapport and they know they can trust you.