One thing they may not teach you in business school is how to treat your professional network. Maybe you don’t think you have a professional network and it’s not important to be courteous to anyone other than the person who pays you. But you don’t know which person will someday be in a position to “love you or lose you” for or a job so it’s best to be on your professional best behavior at all times.
In life you will always run into situations where people will piss you off or work your last nerve but you can either take the high road and let it roll off of you, or you can mouth off and make a bad situation even worse. You have to know who your friends are in business even if you don’t want to have lunch with them. Knowing how to treat someone in your professional circle is important whether you think they can do anything for your career ambitions or not. Having the common decency to treat others the way you would want or expect to be treated separates a good networker from a bad one. Yes, because every situation that arises in your career has the potential to make a break your future prospects whether you think at the time they do not.
Here are some examples of ways NOT to treat your professional network no matter how much of a “bestie” you think the person is or will become:
- Standing by your word and telling a colleague you’ll meet them for lunch and then inviting 10 other people without letting them know is not a professional way to handle a meeting or invite-especially if they offered to pick up the tab!
- Forgetting to thank someone who has referred you or helped you make an introduction to someone in your professional community is bad form whether you get the meeting or not;
- Calling someone on the pretense you want to see how they are doing all the while knowing you need or want something from that person is not being genuine, kind, or honest;
- Being thankless in any situation shows you have no respect for the other person and even less respect for yourself;
- Making someone wait for you while you are delayed without so much as a call, text or email is rude and inappropriate no matter what the circumstance (unless of course you are in a coma);
- Telling someone you’ll help with an introduction or meeting while having no intention whatsoever to follow through is hitting below the belt;
- Trying to guilt someone into helping you with a career move even though you can’t stand the person is not being honest, sincere or genuine;
- Making someone always pick up the check at a business lunch or meeting is selfish and miserly;
- Giving someone intentionally misleading information in the hopes you can benefit from it is unethical and makes you untrustworthy;
- Having no sense of professional etiquette and not thanking someone at all times for assisting you whether you gain an advantage from the situation or not.
Understanding that it’s not all about you and that others have feelings too is important to realize no matter what your professional relationship. Just because you have no clue how the person will or won’t help you in your career advancement does not give you license to be rude and dismissive-think of how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot? Knowing how you would like others to treat you is the first step in recognizing that it’s equally as important to treat others in the same manner whether you expect to get anything out of it or not.
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