Recently on MyLinkedInPowerForum, Vincent Wright posed the following challenging question:
How do you feel about networking with someone who puts their own interests ahead of yours?
My answer? Just fine, within reason. In fact, people who are always ready to give, but then don’t take care of themselves, concern me!
I subscribe to the “pay it forward” philosophy. You may often find yourself in a position where you can help someone else a whole lot more than they can help you. But at some point in time, they’re going to be in that same position with someone else, and at some point in time, someone else is going to be in that position with you. The idea that reciprocity means exchanging equal value with every single person is, well, emotionally immature (politest way I can put it).
I’ve also found that quite often what other people interpret as “putting their own interests ahead of yours” is really “putting the interests of other people they’ve already made a commitment to ahead of yours”.
I have always said that your first responsibilities are to:
- Your family
- Your business partners
- Your employees and coworkers
- Your existing clients
- Your qualified prospects
What does it say about somebody if they push back an existing client for an hour to network with you? Or skip their kid’s baseball/soccer/football game because they’re too busy “working”, which includes several hours a week of “networking”? Or let their health slide because they’re choosing networking over working out? Or if their product or skills are out-of-date because they never spend any time on professional development? Or if they’re constantly stressed out because they don’t take mental breaks throughout the day and are working 80 hours a week? Or if they’re having economic difficulty because they’ve spent too much time networking instead of other aspects of their business?
Sure, networking is a way of life, but it’s still only one dimension of your life. The next time someone tells you, or acts like, they’re “too busy” to network with you, put yourself in their shoes. What other commitments might they already have? Are they really putting “their own” needs in front of yours? Or the needs of other people? It doesn’t mean you’re “less important” – it just means that there are other people in line in front of you.