Networking builds careers and relies on people helping people Networking thrives on opportunities to be generous. In the aftermath of two major disasters, help others stay positive and maintain hope for a better future. 

At the risk of appearing to be a Polyanna for seeking the good in everything or being labeled as a conniving, scheming, selfish plotter, I feel compelled to share a few brief thoughts on networking in the aftermath of these back -to-back events. Let me start by saying that when someone makes the effort to reach out, often unexpectedly after a hiatus in communication and it is in the midst of an emotional experience, the recipient is likely to appreciate the attention and will not read into this an ulterior motive provided the message is sincere and demonstrates genuine human kindness… and you follow up and don’t drop out of sight, again.

I recognize that these recommendations may come across as taking advantage of another person’s vulnerability, but among people you have known and lost touch with over time, I strongly believe that reaching out is a nicer act than ignoring their situation and not extending a few words that let’s them know you are thinking of them, wishing them well and prepared to help them. Better than words are acts of kindness such as being proactive and offering some concrete assistance. To demonstrate your trustworthiness, be sure to follow up (even if they do not respond) after a short time to see how things are going.

I hope that this advice is taken as it is intended to put a different twist on a challenging situation and point out an opportunity to revive a relationship between individuals who have strayed apart. If you see other silver linings, please share them by the Contact page.

The Context

Clients routinely tell me one of the most daunting aspects of networking is reaching out to renew a connection after a long silence at the risk of seeming to be a “user” or “faking interest.” Natural disasters present an unrivaled opportunity to demonstrate concern where immediate reciprocity is not expected. It’s a chance to renew contact for a transparent, valid reason. This meets the requirements of networking best practices by being a generous act that gives rather than seeks anything in return. The nice part is that even a simple, “Hello! How are you doing? I’ve been thinking of you and hope you are safe.” is sufficient and can start an exchange and reignite a relationship.

  • This is a unique chance to exchange news, empathize and offer help based on personal experience or access to resources that might be helpful to the other party who might not have realized that you could help them or may have been reluctant to ask because of an extended break in your communication.
  • It’s certainly better to say hi than to ignore the fact that a contact may be in danger and appear not to want to get involved. They may be suffering through any number of losses, inconveniences, being displaced, in mourning, facing a housing or health crisis, dealing with personal and professional uncertainty, etc.
  • Be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes this time and think how in times of stress and uncertainty it feels good to know that someone has your back and has offered assistance without being asked for help.

Recommended Actions

Go through your contacts mentally checking off who you know that is living or works in Florida, Houston, Georgia, and elsewhere that has been affected by the recent storms. Write a personal email or LinkedIn message/inmail to each one. Keep it short. Make sure your offer is and sounds sincere; don’t offer anything you can’t or won’t deliver. Pass along an introduction that might be useful or offer emotional support and mention that you will be in touch again and hope that next time finds them in a better situation. If all you have are kind words, that’s sufficient. If you can identify a specific way to provide support, suggest it in a manner that does not obligate the recipient to do or say anything. Don’t expect an immediate reply or judge them for not responding to your generous offer; they may not have power or internet access. Follow up in 4 or 5 days and see where the conversation leads next and promote the idea of refreshing the relationship.

Want to make a broader impact? Getting into a networking groove? Go through your LI network and identify individuals in the two hurricane zones missing from your list compiled from memory. Reach out to each of these individuals using similar techniques described above.

Take Your Networking a Step Ahead

If there is anyone whom you’ve met in person or virtually who is not a first degree connection, you can start a conversation via messaging or personal email if you know it. You can incorporate the principles of Networking Purposefully and use this event to start an interchange with those you want to get to know better. If you have been meaning to or wanting to connect, inquiring about their post-storm status is a convenient way to kick off a dialogue and launch into a conversation. Of course, plan to contact those you don’t know or who are unlikely to remember you only after waiting a couple or more weeks to give them a chance to deal with their emergencies.



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