Dear DFS: How Can I Balance Networking and Friendship?

Dear DFS,

I recently decided to make a career change and need to get back into networking. I have a former colleague, who also used to be a close friend, working in the business that I’m now pursuing. I know she has a lot of contacts, and I want to ask for some advice to see if she could possibly introduce me to a few co-workers, but I’m not sure where to start. Since she was a friend when we worked together, I do not want my sudden reemergence to seem abrupt or insincere. I know networking is important in today’s working world, but I still consider this woman my friend and do not want my favor to devalue our relationship. How do I approach her to get the help I need, but maintain our friendship? Is there a balance when it comes to networking and friendship and where is the line?

Needing some ground rules,

Victoria

Lancaster, PA

Dear Victoria,

Congratulations to you for making a career change!  It is a wonderful opportunity for you to pursue.

In this day and age when sharing of information and social networking has become very much part of both our personal and professional life, the rules have changed. It is commonplace now to make our lives more publicly available and more intertwined.

Do reach out and make contact with your former colleague and be honest and upfront with her as to why you are contacting now.  Do tell her that that it has been a long time since you have been in contact and you want to reconnect with her as a friend and be upfront that you also want to ask her professional advice up to a point where she is comfortable.

Your friend should be delighted to hear from you and delighted to hear you have changed the focus in your career. A good rule of thumb is to tell your friend your situation and what you are looking for, but let her steer on what she is able to do for you.

Make sure you have plenty of time to catch up on a personal level, as well, and try to reconnect the friendship side of things.

One of the most important results that networking can give you is the simple act of letting other people know you are available. Reconnecting with your former colleague on both a personal and professional level will be a benefit to both of you.  By reaching out to one person, you are creating opportunities to get connected to a wider network. Your friend is probably delighted to have the opportunity to network as well so it is a win-win situation for everybody!

Best wishes,

Susan Butler

Programme Co-ordinator

Dress for Success Dublin

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