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May 20, 2024

Principles of Curious Networking (Part 2)

John Kim
Co-founder @ Paraform
In this blog

This post covers the second half of a list of principles for networking organically – and therefore sustainably. If your heart isn’t in it, people will feel that. Being a great recruiter isn’t about feigning interest in certain people or topics. It’s about growing your innate curiosity and directing it in a way that’s helpful.

The principles

  1. Show up consistently
  2. Grow your curiosity
  3. Pay attention to attention
  4. Offer value first
  5. Be candid about tradeoffs
  6. Show support publicly

Principle 4: Offer value first

As a recruiter, you’ll need to ask for favors. Introductions, contact info, honest opinions, etc. These things cost social capital. It’s easy to get into a position where you don’t feel justified asking for things – and that’s probably because you either haven’t added value yet, don’t realize that you have added value, or are worried that you won’t be able to add value.

The most straightforward way to get around this hurdle is to add value first. When you initiate a connection, try to provide them with something valuable. Not something valuable in general, but something specific to that person. This could be an article, some contact information, a bit of recent news in an adjacent industry, or a warm introduction.

If you’ve followed principle 3, pay attention to attention, then this should be intuitive. The tricky part is trying to keep everyone’s interests in mind. Again, the trick is to add value right away. As soon as you’ve identified a new connection’s interests, give them something relevant. Waiting is hard on memory – especially if you’re meeting 5 or 10 new people a day. And forget about it if you’re going to a conference.

Should you not be able to add value right away, make a physical note and follow up on it ASAP.

Principle 5: Be candid about tradeoffs

Adding more people to your network means juggling priorities and balancing needs. All of your actions have tradeoffs: speed vs. cost, efficiency vs. thoroughness, urgent vs. important. Which is hard enough as it is. But you’re in the people business, which means everyone you work with has their own preferences about these tradeoffs.

Clearly communicating tradeoffs is the best way to achieve some balance with your connections. People have a wide variety of preferences for speed, urgency, and polish. So do you. When you offer to add value, be sure to follow up with questions about when someone wants something and when they want it. Instead of making those decisions for your connections, turn tradeoffs into conversations.

This sets the ground for future negotiations when working together. For example, does a client like to ping back immediately or once a day at a certain time? Also, perfect client-candidate fits are rare. It’s good to get used to talking about pros and cons; problems get solved much faster when they’re out in the open.

Everything is about tradeoffs – networking is no exception. Networking quickly is a lot different than networking sustainably. And blitzing through conferences might work well if you’re an entry-level recruiter trying to make a buck. But if you’re a freelancing talent consultant trying to build a great business book, you’re better off taking a principled approach.

Principle 6: Show support publicly

Tying this all together – how do you secure your networking flywheel? Once you’ve rustled up some contacts, offered value, and started to get a sense for their work style, then what?

Everyone is trying to get something done. Showcasing people’s work is a great way to stay in the loop and passively create connections. Both companies and candidates have content for you to highlight.

Sharing the work or promotion of a great developer can keep them on the radar of some of your corporate contacts. Highlighting company news keeps them top of mind for your worker network.

This principle is about transforming your 1:1 connections into an ecosystem. You go from individual connection-maker to a community manager. Over time, people will probably start reaching out to you because you’re the mutual at the center of this social graph.

That’s a powerful place to be as a recruiter. And playing that role well means showing support for the people you’ve connected with – not just once, but repeatedly, over time. Since these new links you’ve forged came from a place of genuine interest, this should feel natural.

Taking a principled approach starts with showing up, in whatever way, consistently. Then let your curiosity guide you into genuine connections. Pay attention to what those contacts are attending to. Strike first by offering value based on those interests. Talk logistics in terms of tradeoffs and be honest about balancing them. Then build momentum by supporting individuals where your community of contacts can see.

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