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Unselfish Networking

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Several years ago a friend "in transition" (a euphemism for "unemployed and looking for a job") asked me to look at his résumé.

He figured there must be something wrong with it because it never helped him find a job. The only way he ever found work was by knowing somebody.

I'm not surprised. It seems to me the thing to work on is not just tweaking one's résumé, but rather getting to know more "somebodies."

The way to do that is through professional networking.

I'm a very proactive networker with connections around the world, but that wasn't always the case. In the past I found (my mistaken understanding of) networking to be distasteful. If you'd asked me what I thought of it, I would have said:

1.    Networking is self-serving.
2.    I want to make it on my own.
3.    It's enough to be really good at what you do.

Live and learn. Somewhere along the way, I realized no one really makes it on their own. And it isn't enough just to be good at what you do.

We are social creatures. We exist as part of the wonderful super-network known as human society, within which we create sub-networks to suit our particular needs.

Yes, some "networkers" are self-serving, in the same way that some people are selfish. But one need not be selfish to network.

On the contrary, I decided to turn the idea on its head. Rather than network for selfish motives, rather than seek to meet and know people to advance my own agenda, I would network for others. (This was a revolutionary idea for me, but that's because I was ignorant. Good networkers knew this already.)

Each of us has gifts and talents, and I'm no exception. What I know and what I can do are valuable, and I would like to use what I know and what I can do to help other people succeed. If, in the end, that contributes to my own success (it will and it does) that is a delightful consequence.

It's simple: Know more people, help more people.

When I recently found myself "in transition," I appealed earnestly to my network. The response was overwhelming and touching. Ultimately, it helped me succeed. It's very satisfying to have seen the goodness and generosity of my network and to know that so many fine people stood ready to help.

You can't achieve that with a résumé, however perfectly crafted.


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Mindfulness is about being present. In other works about what is happening now. If you can't focus on breathing and listening at the same time? you need help!

Jim, right on the target. I like networking with people and has been my passion. My friends used to call me a "walking talking greeting card" as I used to love to greet people and ask how they are doing, even to those I don't know professionally. It does help to boost your self esteem, even a small thing like saying hello with a smile, can make your day.

My two cents is networking with people doesn't have to be in the same profession or interests, it could be with your neighbors, or with other parents at your kid's school.

The more the diversity, the more the learning..

This is really thought provoking article. It helped me to understand the advantages of networking. Thanks a lot for sharing these valuable thoughts...

I am currently "in transition" and feel the effects of not nurturing my professional relationships via all the networking opportunities available and has to in effect start from scratch.

Through my career I have offered advice and help to a number of people, but did not think that I will need this as well. With my ego out of the way, I can now clearly see where I went wrong and are looking at the various opportunities offered for networking in my community with a new respect.

Thank you for confirming the need for these interactions.

Hats off to your writing skills Jim! The article is very much thought provoking. You have communicated the hard to digest thought of unselfish networking in a lucid way.

So well stated Jim! And all of the comments that have been added to the blog have made it even more obvious that 'unselfish networking' is just what a professional does. Period. It's almost like the communities we network in and the value that we add to them is a part of a virtual resume.

The dates of recent responses are a testament to the timelessness of this post, Jim.

Professional networking is indeed a way to build relationships with hundreds and even thousands of people - but for what reasons? Do we need reasons? I say "No!" We have all experienced the delight of running into one or more colleagues as we travel to conferences, training and work in far-away places. Yes, there is a difference between a social friend and a professional friend, but the line can blur at times. The warmth we feel at seeing a familiar, friendly face can be reason enough.

Can our professional friends rely on us to at least help broadcast their skills and the fact that they are "in transition"? You bet! And we'll gain from a great feeling knowing that their transition period may have been made that much shorter due to our efforts.

Will we ever need to leverage our professional friends to help us in some way? Maybe not because if we are never "in transition". But of course we will for those tidbits of knowledge and wisdom that come from reaching out and collaborating with our professional network(s).

Thanks for the post, Jim. Very insightful!


I liked what the post said, but I always have trouble with saying that they do things for unselfish reasons. The truth is that the person you help may be the person who helps you someday. To put it another way, you will likely be in that same position some day.

If you help someone today, you will feel less sheepish when you need to, as you surely will, go back to that same community and ask for help. This is equally true if you are looking for help in finding work, finding an expert, getting advice, or any other professional courtesy or assistance you might ask for.

I met Jim when he was doing exactly what he speaks of in this article. As a previous post said, he is a great example of unselfish networking.

One lesson I've learned over the years about networking is that it's not to be confused with mentoring. When I was younger, I thought I was too new to have a lot to offer in a networking situation, and it seemed like my time was better spent building hard skills. Now I've realized that a great reward of networking is being able to connect two people with similar needs, and you can do that no matter how advanced your career is if you listen to others.

Thanks for your words of wisdom, Jim!

Networking also helps in socializing and more you get connected more the known area expands. In this age of information technology, we need to filter right information at right time from a right source. Talent helps but it’s always a privilege to have a reference. So ‘stay connected’ and keep your friend’s circle wide.

Anything that one does unselfishly is surely noble. Giving one's time; performing social service; teaching or mentoring others; and networking without selfishness are activities as well.

Networking is a vital tool in today's dynamic environment. I have had some requirements for qualified personnel. It takes a heavy toll on finding a replacement that fits the bill.

Only through networking was I able to meet and evaluate the different available options. It really cuts through the clutter of mundane body shopping. You earn the distinction and reward others in process: a modern way of mutualism.

This article underlies something that many of us miss out -- namely, that networking should be a win-win situation for the parties involved.

It is important to have a deep relationship with your networker, where you understand his/her expectations, skills, ambitions, personal background. This way, you will hopefully be better equipped to give back, not just ask for help or advice.

I agree with you. Networking should not be for selfish reasons but to help other people in various ways. And one thing I have come to realize is that a channel of water cannot itself be dry. Helping others helps us.

Jim, your valuable point about unselfish networking is certainly an eye opener and a reminder.

I very much enjoyed the simplicity of your writing in reaching such an important message.

Well done!

A few purely thought-provoking questions for each of us:

How many of us have friends or former coworkers who are out of work?

How many of those have we worked with to help them get back on their feet?

How many hours per month of our time -- not dollars -- do we spend helping homeless families and/or seniors feel loved/useful? Do we reach out to unlovely people?

Causes to preserve nature, save pets from abuse, etc. are necessary and useful; but there are millions of human beings who need someone to see them and lift up their spirit. We should be doing both. We cannot depend on any government -- however well-intentioned--to do what we should be doing for those around us.

And as PMPs, we are probably more qualified than others to help organize our communities -- in a non-political way -- to prevent our neighbors "falling through the cracks"...

a great "Pay it Forward" approach

Very nice post.

Networking plays very important role for employee well as for employer. It helps to get best resources on board. I call netwoking-the web power as potentials are connected as a web which grows by helping and sharing knowledge.

I believe in networking -- helping and getting helped.

Good post. Networking is a great, but it’s not always easy to keep in touch with others. You try your best, but sometimes you feel tired and bored trying to convince others to keep in touch. The truth is, a lot of persons focus on their current job and life, and end up losing contact with the people they knew previously. Others are just selfish, and they reject you from their network.

The idea of networking for others is great though. Who knows, you might get help yourself, when you try to help others!!!

Couldn't agree more with you. Social networking is about get a turn on "you help by others" and " you help others." Its like cycle, its never be one direction, only
happy good positive networking

Great article. Networking can be a vital way of getting into the job market as many jobs are never posted. Regarding the unselfish part, I believe people who network give more back by synergizing with others to ensure a common objective is met.

Great post. A little over a year ago I too was “in transition;” the network that I had established over the years was invaluable.

During this period I was introduced to a networking group in Houston, Texas, USA called InHouston. One of the cornerstones of this group is servant leadership and how it relates to networking. There is a video on their website of founder Eric Standlee in which he explains the concept.

Good post. How about a post on how to network virtually? I live and work in a rural community and would like to network "out there in the real world!"

We know the result of work being done for us (self-centered). Unselfish works' results are unpredictable and supported by almighty that infuses positive energy to excel further. We are living in society, and serving someone without objective of gain is kind of giving back to society.

I am a recent convert to the importance of networking and how important it is to getting (and staying) employed.

It is a critical skill to working the corporate system and getting the projects/position you want.

The higher you go on the job food chain, the fewer positions there are. Networking not only gets you "name brand" recognition but also helps to develop interpersonal skills -- another key to success for PMs.

Great perspective, Jim, and good points!

Very rightly put, Jim!

Networking succeeds fully only if one is unselfish to help all deserving people and help connect them to appropriate networks. After all networking exists simply because there is a demand for proven resources that can be vouched for by ones peers.

I couldn't agree more, Jim, and you are a living example. Networking is so giving. They are the worms in your compost that make the soil even better ;-)

Thanks for the piece.
I had a similar perception about networking, but I realized that it's part of the professional life, and it definitely helps open new gates and prospects. I don't consider myself as a very vivid networker, but I try to keep in touch with good professionals just to learn, grow, and in case of need " a.k.a transition," I'd easily turn to them. My last 2 jobs I got were through professional networking.

Very good post Jim.
Yes, networking is important, it is useful, and doing so via internet can be easy, fun, and it brings us closer to people that remain physically distant from us.
I agree with Markus about the balance:
- gaining good technical skills while also growing your network and
- networking "virtually" but also socializing and helping in the real world.

Excellent Post.

Investing in "Networking" can reap huge returns in the long run. People like to work with people with whom they have worked earlier and had a good professional relationship in the past.

The important point to remember would be to choose the network wisely. The "network" ( E.g. Quality Group etc.) goals should be ideally aligned with your own goals.

Best wishes

As all soft skills, networking is a vital supplement for hard skills. Fortunately, all self-serving networkers I know, could be identified as such quickly since they lack hard skills. On the other hand hard skill only people are never identified as such, since they have no visibility at all.

Even a resume is just a form of networking. A resume uses references such as schools and working places to put you in a social context and learn about your qualities by attaching them to the qualities of other people (or institutes). The same is done via networking. Even though personal acquaintances tend to work more effectively than referencing schools and prior working places.

As with all things in life. Networking is about balance. For each investment into a new technical skill, you should also invest in growing your network.

Excellent post! I have always seen networking as just simply "brown nosing". However, your article brings to light another aspect of it that I find much more appealing- helping others. It seems that by helping others out, we can expand our networks and make them stronger without sacrificing our dignity.

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