Don’t Be Transactional

John Hadley Greeting Someone

I’ve written before about the all-too-common mistake networkers make, of approaching networking in a ‘transactional’ manner.  This is especially an issue for many job seekers, who have been told that networking is the most productive avenue for their search (true), but who let their single-minded focus on getting a job make their approach too transactional to be effective.


One problem is that we don’t always recognize when we are treating networking as a transaction.


For example, it may seem natural to a job seeker to ask a contact what openings they know of.  But think about it from the other person’s point of view.  If you’ve done a good job of explaining what you are seeking, and what would make you an outstanding candidate for that, why wouldn’t I already be volunteering appropriate openings I know of?  There must be a reason:

  • Perhaps I don’t know of any.
  • Possibly I’m not convinced you are really that passionate about that role.
  • Maybe you really haven’t convinced me that you would make an outstanding candidate.


In any of those cases, how is asking me about openings going to do more than make things awkward and potentially weaken the relationship?


Here’s another simple example that I’m sure many of you have seen:


You offer to connect Jim to Joan, and send an introductory email to both.  Since Jim is the one who requested the connection, you expect he will take charge and follow up.


Two weeks later, you run into Joan, and she tells you that she never heard from Jim.  Now you are in the position of making apologies, and start to regret having tried to make the connection.


Now, Jim may have a good reason for having decided not to reach out to Joan, or for delaying the outreach.  But by not communicating that, he has put you in an awkward position.  I don’t know about you, but I would certainly have second thoughts about making another connection for Jim in the future.  And he has given at least a hint that he is a transactional networker, who only follows up when it benefits him.


All it would take is a simple email along the lines of:


“Jim, I really appreciate the connection.  Joan, something has come up unexpectedly that I need to deal with, and I’ll be back in touch in a few weeks.”


“Jim, I really appreciate the connection. 

Joan, I realized after Jim and I spoke that I’m moving in a different direction than I thought, so that meeting up wouldn’t be as productive as I thought.  Thanks for being willing to meet.  I don’t want to waste your valuable time, though if you see anything in my background that suggests I might be able to help you in any way, of course I would be happy to chat.”


And finally, here’s a redacted (to protect confidentiality) response I received shortly after a networking connection email, that I put into my ‘best practices’ file:


Subject: Re: An Introduction

Thank you, John!  I BCC’d you in the message as well.

Hello, XXXX!

I am very pleased to meet you via e-mail. I have always been interested in the true implementation of XXXX within corporations and have found that there is definitely a special nuance when it comes to XXXX firms.  I do sit on the XXXXXXXXX BOD and have longed to present programming to the membership that they can utilize internally as well as recommend to their own clients.  

I would like to connect and have a conversation about this topic and see if you can offer any advice or insight.

Thank you.


Leave a comment or drop me a note with your own thoughts on this.

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