Here are 8 ways to network with friends and more importantly, 4 points on what to avoid when learning how to network with friends for professional reasons to ensure the best results whilst maintaining friendships.
Creating a quality network can be a difficult thing. It’s not easy to keep up with your many contacts, offering them help, and hopefully getting helped out once in a while in return. Some of the easiest people to network with are those who you’re closer to: namely, your friends. Don’t upset the delicate balance between friendship and professionals by making mistakes that leave you both burned.
While friendships can offer valuable professional networking opportunities, it’s important to maintain a balance between your personal and professional relationships. Here’s how you can approach your friends for networking.
1. Be Genuine: Authenticity is key. Show genuine interest in their professional life and express your aspirations honestly.
2. Choose the Right Time and Place: Avoid blurring lines between personal and professional conversations. Schedule a coffee or lunch meeting specifically for professional discussions.
3. Respect Boundaries: Understand that friends may have limitations when it comes to helping professionally due to company policies or personal reasons.
4. Share Relevant Information: If you come across information that could benefit your friend’s career, share it with them.
5. Offer Your Skills: If you possess skills or expertise that your friend might find useful in their work, offer your help.
6. Be a Connector: Introduce your friend to other people in your network who can be useful to them.
7. Face-to-face interactions: These are often more impactful than virtual ones. Consider organizing networking events like
- Casual Meetups: Arrange a casual gathering where your friends can meet and interact.
- Professional Workshops: Host workshops or seminars on topics relevant to your shared interests.
- Charity Events: Organize charity events that align with your profession or industry.
8. Social media: Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can be powerful tools for professional networking:
- LinkedIn: Connect with friends, follow their professional activities, participate in discussions, and share insightful posts.
- Twitter: Engage with by sharing industry news,, and thought leadership pieces.
- Facebook: Join professional groups where friends are members.
There are numerous success stories people who have successfully networked with friends for professional reasons.
For example, take Bill Gates and Paul Allen who were childhood friends before they co-founded Microsoft. Their friendship served as a strong foundation for their business partnership.
Another fantastic example is Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who became friends during their Ph.D. program at Stanford University before starting Google together.
I hope you can see how there is power in friendships and fostering successful professional partnerships without making it wierd.
4 Mistakes To Avoid When Networking
Sure, that one friend might have a lot of knowledge. Or they know a lot of people that you would LOVE to know. That doesn’t mean that you can or should constantly ask them to give that knowledge and connections to you. Continuously asking for help will quickly dry up your friendship, especially if you’re not going out of your way to help them in return.
If you’ve asked your friend for a favour within the last few weeks, then try and hold off. Damaging your relationship with them is probably worse than delaying whatever you need the knowledge or connection for. Be considerate of them and their time. They have their own lives, their own careers. Practice consideration by keeping those in mind.
All work, no play
When you do connect up with your friend, don’t charge right into what you want or need. It feels incredibly rude and demeaning to be asked to go out for coffee, and then find out that all the other person wants is what they can get. Spend some time reconnecting with your friend and enjoying being with them. You can and will ask that burning question eventually. Don’t sabotage your efforts—and potentially your friendship—by doing so too early. A key factor in networking with friends for professional reasons is knowing when to hold back and when to ask for a favour.
There’s a saying that there are no stupid questions. However, there are some that definitely show some ignorance. If you haven’t worked with your friend in a professional way or had professional connections, then don’t ask them to be a reference. The only exception to this is if you became friends during university, a great place to start making professional connections. They don’t know if you really are a good employee, if you deliver on time, or if you would do well in a particular job. This puts them in a difficult place—having to say no to you. Don’t ask them to provide an irrelevant reference. Instead, ask for their help in other ways. They can look over your resume, let you bounce ideas off of them, and much more.
If your friend feels uncomfortable about introducing you to a connection or—ahem—providing a reference, be sensitive to that. You don’t want them to do something they would feel uncomfortable doing, for whatever reason. It’s probably not personal. You don’t want to pressure them into compromising their career by helping you get ahead in yours. Be aware of subtle body language that can give you a hint, and be willing to give them an easy out so that they don’t feel like they’re offending you.
Your friends can be a great professional connection in your job hunt or even if you’re settled in your career, as it’s always important to keep networking in life. Treat that friendship right, as the valuable connection that it is, and you’ll never go wrong. Always practice reciprocity, and your friends will be thankful to have your friendship.
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