Pay-It-Forward: An Awesome Strategy for Increasing Your Network in Human Resources…

by Alan Collins

Networking to build or expand your relationships is an important strategy for advancing your career in Human Resources.

Every gathering you attend as an HR professional is a networking event – whether someone formally calls it that or not.

It doesn’t matter.

It could be any of the following:

•    The monthly business meeting that everyone attends.
•    The annual HR meeting that includes your team and everyone else.
•    The monthly SHRM meeting you attend religiously.
•    A conference call you’re on where everyone is discussing the pressing HR issue of the moment.
•    A gathering for beers on Friday night.
•    Or even a quick gathering to celebrate someone’s birthday at the office.

The best networking opportunities occur in situations like these when you don’t know everyone there.  It’s a chance for you to expand and deepen your contact network.

However, some people are in a rush and try to move the networking and relationship building process along too quickly.  For example, if you’ve just asked someone to write down the names of job leads at their current company, and you’ve just met them, you’ve gone too fast.  That’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date.  You look desperate and foolish.  And further, these high-pressure tactics are not necessary.

There are lots of successful ways to networking and many of them are described in detail in a new book by Sandy Jones-Kaminski (pictured left) called: “I’m at a Networking Event – Now What?”

One of the most successful approaches to networking that Sandy covers in the book is called the “pay-it-forward” approach.

When you pay-it-forward, you simply offer to help others first.  You put your own needs second to the person you’re networking with.  For example, at a social or business function as you get to know people, listen closely for opportunities where you can provide help.  If someone you’ve just met mentions they’ve had difficulty recruiting finance candidates, you might  offer to send them the latest white paper on best practices in finance recruitment you’ve just read about or to introduce them to a person you know who has lots of contacts in finance.  These are all great ways to offer your help and assistance…first!

According to Sandy: “As you meet people you think you can help or would like to form a connection with, exchange contact info so you can follow up to set appointment to get together.  You might say: ‘Bob, I’ll send you my brother-in-law’s contact info on the finance candidates if you give me your card, and here’s mine.  And I’d love to take you up on your offer of sharing your advice on the best way of presenting myself to your former employer.  May I contact you to set up a time for coffee next week?”

In further describing the “pay-it forward” approach, Sandy says:  “In networking, reciprocity is the key, so as you meet people at networking events, be generous in sharing your talents, knowledge, and ideas, and always be respectful of and demonstrate appreciation to those around you whether they appear to be able to help you out immediately or not.  We all usually have something that we could use an assist on.”

The principle of reciprocity that underlies the pay-it-forward approach is a powerful one that operates anytime someone gives you something you weren’t expecting. It naturally inspires you to look to return the favor in some way…and support the giver because somehow you feel indebted and obligated to even the score.   Putting this powerful principle to work for you in your networking can be very effective.

However, a caution: don’t be disappointed if some people don’t spring forward to reciprocate immediately.  The “good karma” you’ve generated will return the favor down the road – maybe not from this person – but from places you might not expect.

So when networking, put the the “pay-it-forward” approach to work for you. It’s certainly a lot less painful than going out and jumping people for favors or expecting your newfound contacts to accept marriage proposals after five minutes.

For more excellent ideas on improving your networking and how you can even set up your own “Pay-it-forward” events or parties, check out the new book by Sandy Jones-Kaminski’s “I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???” Available now on Amazon.

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3 Responses to “Pay-It-Forward: An Awesome Strategy for Increasing Your Network in Human Resources…”

  1. Joan Ziegler Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I truly believe in the “PAY IT FORWARD” theory. When I am meeting people I try to make it a two way street. With that said, what are you looking for in terms of contacts/leads?

    Also, what do you believe the right approach is for job seekers when they are looking for a new position? I know that they are anxious to share all of their experience and talent to get a job interview. What do you suggest?

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