Making The Grade

It drives me bonkers when job seekers grade their networking contacts. They evaluate how good of a contact someone is by who they know and what they’ve managed to do for them. Though that sounds reasonable, it’s a terrible disservice to the networking process.

First of all, to be able to grade someone based on who they know you have to know who they know. Try saying that sentence fast 3 times. So often this grade is based on assumptions. You know what they say about assuming… It’s impossible to truly know who an individual is connected to personally and professionally. There are some who wear their supposed connections on their sleeves, but there are many more who don’t.  And even those who flaunt their contacts fail to mention everyone. You see, they have their own grading system when it comes to who they decide to name drop. Humans are humans, I suppose.

I’ve joked before I treat everyone I meet like a scratch off lottery ticket. You never know what prizes they have hidden under the surface without making an effort to scrape off the layers. In truth, networking contacts are better than lottery tickets because, when developed appropriately, all can be winners. Unless the person lives the life of a recluse, chances are high they know someone, directly or indirectly, who could benefit your search.

That last point leads me to the second reason it is poor form to grade networking contacts. If you operate under the belief all you meet are valuable, know other people and have the potential to connect you to others, whose fault is it if they fail to come through for you? If a networking contact doesn’t think to help you or decides they aren’t interested, giving them the bad grade is misplacing ownership in the process. You are the one ultimately responsible for how clearly you define your objectives to networking contacts and explain how they can help you. You are the one ultimately responsible for inspiring enough trust and motivation for them to act on your behalf.

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