Mary is in her second job search in 5 years; do you know what she needs? Or John, who travels for business 40% of the time? And what specific feedback, advice, support might Bob (who just started a new role) or Carol (whose daughter just graduated from college) need? A network is made up of relationships. And relationships are made up of people. And people are individuals–with different needs.
Many times, we stop short of discovering how we can support and/or become a resource to our network. We categorize and systematize members of our network by profession, function, location, and even type of relationship–acquaintance to core (as we’ve talked about in this space before). But until you know and understand where each member of your network is on his or her work-life journey, you can’t really offer the type of support that would be most valuable at that time. Someone in a second job search may not need the resume or career advice that a new grad might. She may need help in developing her elevator pitch to showcase her expertise in managing complex change rather than in just being part of another restructuring. And the person who finds himself in a new town once a month may enjoy being introduced or connected to someone in your network to meet for breakfast or dinner.
I suggest that when my clients get to know people, they add a column to their network notebooks (where they have jotted down name, title, phone number, etc) and create an “I.O.U. list.” It’s a simple matter of making a few quick notes on where your new acquaintance is now in their career journey, and ideas on the types of needs you can help with. If you don’t know or get stuck thinking of ideas, it’s a great reason to send an email or pick up the phone and ask, “What’s happening in your world?”