Building Professional Connections: No Riding Coattails!

“We need to get together and discuss how I can get involved in your networking circle.”

Awhile back, someone posted this comment on one of my social media platforms in response to a photo that I shared of me with some colleagues at a networking event. While some people might have meant that in jest. I know this person did not.

There’s so much wrong with his statement…I’d call it a request, but really it wasn’t. He didn’t ask. He told me what we need to do so he can further his business in the local community.

Connecting in the local professional community – No riding of coattails allowed!

When building a network of professional connections to grow a business, there is no “we” where responsibility for reaching out and nurturing relationships is concerned. Yes, it’s fine to leverage existing connections and occasionally ask for introductions to people who you might have some synergy with.  (As professionals, it’s professional courtesy – and the right thing to do – to graciously introduce connections whenever appropriate), but it’s wrong to expect others to do all the work for you.  To anyone who hasn’t shown the initiative or effort to make inroads on their own in their community…get off our coattails!

There are no shortcuts for building meaningful business relationships.

Building relationships and awareness in the local community takes hard work, continuous effort, and a consistent presence. Sometimes you even have to dole out some cash to join groups and pay registration fees for events. Why would you share the fruits of your investment with anyone who is obviously looking for free ride and has nothing to offer in reciprocation?

While helping others professionally is admirable and often mutually beneficial, giving a pass to people who are too lazy to build relationships on their own could damage your reputation rather than strengthen it. If they’re that self-focused with you, you can bet they’ll be equally as self-serving with the people you connect them with. By introducing them, you might be misunderstood as endorsing them. And that could put your professional credibility at risk.

Back to the incident that prompted me to write this post…

I did respond graciously to his request. I didn’t offer to sit down to talk with him, but I did share what I believe are some helpful bits of insight to get him thinking about  how he might start to forge relationships on his own…

  • I listed the networking organizations  in our area for which I’ve paid to be member so he can consider them for his own business development – and so he would understand that networks don’t grow by accident. You have to put yourself where the people you want to connect with are.
  • I explained how important my ongoing and consistent use of social media has been for nurturing relationships and expanding my network.
  • I told  him there’s no secret formula. It takes getting involved and putting in time and effort. You get out of it what you put into it.

Hopefully it has made him think about what he (not we) needs to do to start making connections and building trust within the community.

If I seem a bit territorial about my network, it’s because I am. You should be, too. We’ve worked hard to start – and maintain- our networks of connections. Why should we feel obligated to help someone with a strong sense of entitlement but a weak desire to pay their dues? I’ll always be willing to give other professionals a hand up…but a handout is out of the question.


By Dawn Mentzer – Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post.



4 comments on “Building Professional Connections: No Riding Coattails!
  1. Dawn,
    Another great post. It is one thing to ask opinions or parlay a question from time to time.
    It is another to inquire in the manner presented here.

    • Dawn says:

      Thank you, Bob! I agree 100%…we should all leverage our relationships to get advice when we need it and connect with others. As long as it’s done respectfully – and with some element of reciprocity. Generally, professionals realize it’s all about give and take. Never just take!

  2. Priya says:

    Hi Dawn,

    I remember one such incident, happened a year ago. I connected with a certain someone from my field and he messaged me instantly. He wanted me to refer him to one of the companies i was working with. Though, I found the message weird (unprofessional), considering I barely knew him. But still I gave him the office email ID of one of my colleagues. In addition told this guy not to drop my name. (I’m not even surprised how that went :-).)

    The best thing i did: I informed my colleague, who handled the hiring to look out for anyone dropping my name. And hire the person on his merit & not because he knows me on social media.

    These kinds of requests or whatever they are called, are common on social media platform. I don’t waste my time responding to every message anymore. Usually, such people don’t even bother to address the message directly to the sender. It all looks like a chain of bulk message sending process.

    • Dawn says:

      Thanks for sharing that example, Priya! You handled it very well! There is a lot of that kind of thing on social media…one time a G+ person (a graphic designer), who I don’t in any way know personally or professionally beyond having them in my circles, asked if I could +1 all of his posts because it would help with his SEO. I immediately removed him from my circles! 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your experience, Priya!

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