What is crisis networking?
Think of a time when you landed a new job, received a promotion, or celebrated a huge business victory and then updated your LinkedIn or social media profile to share your recent accomplishment. Then…wait for it….BAM! Suddenly, you start getting inbox emails that read: “Hey! Congratulations on your recent success. I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I was wondering if you could possibly help me with…?”
That, my friends, is the smell of desperation. If this has happened to you, or if you have unfortunately sent one of these messages, you have participated in crisis networking.
So what is it? From my perspective, crisis networking is when a person experiences a situation that calls for immediate assistance from people in their business or personal ecosystem. But these are people with with whom the person in crisis has had no regular or consistent interaction. To put things in plain terms: this person in crisis was laid off or in danger of being laid off and is now desperate for a job. Or, perhaps that person’s business is failing, and is in desperate need some new customers. It is when the proverbial “trouble” has hit the fan and then that becomes the impetus behind a person’s desire to connect with anyone that will see their smoke signals. As you can tell from the meme above, you do not need the power of “the Force” to detect the desperation coming from someone engaged in crisis networking.
When situations like these occur, people justifiably panic, worry, and start to execute their life saving strategies to get back on their feet. But what follows is almost like the walk of shame: having to call people they have not talked to in months or years, and politely connect with them via LinkedIn, text message, email, or even singing telegram! Typically, the person in crisis may never have felt the need to connect or stay connected with others until it ultimately hits home. Throughout our career and personal lives, we meet people, collect business cards, but often become too busy to stay connected when there are so many opportunities to do so. Of all the types of networking styles, this is one of the worst and is the easiest to identify. Whether you see it or not, the people whose help you seek look at you and think, “If it weren’t for the fact that I could help this person get a job, they never would have had anything to say to me in the first place. How do I know they will be there for me when I may need something?” Needless to say, this rubs people the wrong way.
But there is hope. Consider both internal networking (within your place of employment, volunteer work, or social circles) and external networking (people completely unfamiliar to you). Consider it your constant part-time job to stay connected. Here are some of my suggestions to avoid crisis networking:
- Maximize Meetings: While attending a meeting or conference, take advantage of access to key people. These are rare opportunities.
- Constantly Develop Advocates: Create a network of advocates both within and outside of the scope of your responsibilities. Connect with them on a quarterly basis. Use Microsoft Outlook or something similar to keep track.
- Assess Your Current Network: Look at your LinkedIn connections. How many of them are within the same organization in which you are employed? If it’s more than 60 to 70 percent then you have some work to do. If your company crashes and burns, you will have a limited set of people who can help you, since you are all on the same sinking ship. You need to expand your network externally — not just keep it to your place of employment.
- Network Up: Meet with people who are in positions where you desire to be.
- Connect When You Travel: If you travel, connect with people you wouldn’t normally have access to meet.
- Respond to LinkedIn Notifications: When you see the notifications on LinkedIn that someone started a new position or got promoted, send a quick personalized message to say congratulations.
- Thank You cards: Send good old-fashioned thank you cards when someone comes through for you. This is truly a lost art that has gotten me serious mileage in my career!
- Pay it Forward: Be willing to ask how you can help people. Then actually do it. (Have you heard about karma?)
The reason why proactively and constantly networking both internally and externally is it can help eliminate the “crisis” out of networking when a crisis appears.
More than anything, you will be surprised at the doors that will be opened to you automatically. You will always have your safety net of people in place no matter what circumstances may occur in your professional life. More importantly, you will be in a better position to help others, just as they may help you. That is what this is all about in the first place.
Kirk, an ATDC startup catalyst, has a deep background in the life sciences industry, with experience related to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, nanotechnology, diagnostic, and medical device sectors.