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Believe It or Not, Your Closest Friends Probably Won’t Help You Professionally

Believe It or Not, Your Closest Friends Probably Won’t Help You Professionally

I think of myself as pretty good at networking – after all, it’s one of the topics I teach as an adjunct at Columbia University. I also am a small business owner who gets the vast majority of her business from referrals. Finally, as a longtime recruiter, I have gotten the best candidates from referrals. So, of course, I know the value of networking, and still…mistakes can be made.

One of my closest friends is an executive at a company that brought in a coaching firm for a project. Wait, WHAT? Why didn’t I get to bid for that?

[Related: How Lawyers Can Utilize the Art and Science of Persuasion]

He said:

I didn’t know you did that type of work.

Did I mention we were close friends – he’s the godparent to one of my children!

Even your closest friends may not know what you do. Most of us don’t pitch our professional backgrounds in the middle of a social call, so why would we assume that our friends know and (most importantly) remember what we do for a living? They don’t!

[Related: The Most Common Communication Mistakes Women Make]

Even if your closest friends do know what you do, they’re busy with their own careers. They’re not looking at job postings with you in mind.

When was the last time you referred a friend for a job? Or, unsolicited, helped a friend with their career goals? The reality is that most of us are too busy and focused on ourselves to help others. You will have to remind people that you’re looking and tell people explicitly what you’re looking for.

Finally, even if your closest friends know all about your job search (or in my case, my business) and swear up and down that they are looking out for you, do they have your latest resume, business card, or other way to share what you do? Do they know how to describe what you offer in a compelling and concise way?

Probably not, and why should they? You have to help people help you. Make sure that if they do offer to make an introduction, you coach them on what to say. Don’t make them do the work of presenting you. Make it easy for them and productive for you.

[Related: Krista Sande-Kerback on Strategic Career Moves and Networking Even When You Want to Go Home]


Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps experienced professionals in tech, media, financial services, and other industries make a great living doing work they love. Getting the most out of the connections you already have is one way to optimize your networking efforts. If you want support as you build your community, check out her Dream Career Club.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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