How not to network

I’ve been thinking a lot about professional networking lately, mostly due to the issues discussed in my previous post. Today, I had a reminder of ways that I don’t like to network.

I was on my way out of the house headed for a wine tasting, and received a call from someone who used to work for the same software company as me in California a few years back. I worked there for about 18 months, transplanting myself from Toronto to California, and found myself in a political mess of an old boys’ club that was impenetrable to women. So, after being promised a VP position but never seeing it get any closer, and being rebuffed by most of the management (except for the president, who I worked for but seemed to exert little influence over some parts of the company), I quit. Great decision on my part, I ended up moving back to Toronto and am 1000% happier not having to deal with the daily dose of bullshit.

Anyway, a former VP from the company called me today, looking to network and find work for herself. She left there last year, probably also tired of the bullshit, although I don’t really know that because she wouldn’t give me the time of day when I worked there. I tried to network with some of the VPs when I was there, but as a director (the level below VP), I obviously wasn’t worth returning a phone call or dropping by to say hi. Three and a half years after I quit the place, having never said a word to me in the past, she somehow tracks me down and feels that it’s appropriate to call me up and ask me if I know of any opportunities for her. The funny thing is, she didn’t quite realize that I’m in Canada so don’t see a lot of opportunities for washed-up ex-VPs in southern California: even after dialing my 416 area code, I had to remind her that yes, I’m in Toronto, and yes, that’s in the Eastern time zone, and yes, it’s after 6pm and she was inconveniencing me by keeping me from a social event. She talked for 20 minutes anyway. I was polite and we had a chat, and now she’s sent me her resume with very explicit instructions about what she’s looking for, as if I’m her recruiter. Yeah, right.

Coincidentally, I ran into a former customer at the wine tasting tonight. She’s been my customer through four different companies that she worked for, and although it has been lucrative over the years, she has been one of the most disloyal customers that I could imagine dealing with. I like her personally, and have been to her home, but I would not trust her to help me in business any further than I could bench press an elephant. The last company that she worked for helped to bring down one of my previous companies, by committing to paying for a large piece of work, then reneging on the payment after we delivered the work. Since they were large and we were small, it took my company into its final death throes. She didn’t make the decision to not pay us (at least, I don’t think that she did), but she had to know about it, and she never gave me an inkling of warning so that I could have pulled back earlier and possibly saved something. About a year later, after she had been laid off from the same company, she called me up and wanted to network so that she could find work. I talked nice to her, and did nothing except throw her the odd bone that I felt was a dead end. She’s now working in a completely different industry.

I pride myself quite strongly on personal and professional integrity and loyalty. I don’t have a lot of respect for those who don’t, in fact, I can’t imagine treating someone the way that these two people have treated me then be able to ask, without embarrassment, to help them network. I certainly won’t go out of my way to help them in any way; they might think that we’re networking, we’re actually “notworking”.

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