A lot of people feel uncomfortable about networking – reaching out to people they don’t know in the quest for information or introductions. The general reason I hear for this discomfort is that people are uncomfortable asking others for “favors.”

However the fact is that “We exist in a marketplace of favors” – a quote from the Netflix hit “The Diplomat.” It beautifully characterizes a key dynamic of the way the world works – in Washington especially, but indeed the world over.

One of the most beneficial ways to deploy favors is asking your connections to introduce you to appropriate connections of theirs. In the resulting conversations you can learn the “lay of the land” in new career areas or about particular organizations and potential opportunities. But I find many clients reluctant to reach out in that way. They view asking for this type of favor as somehow sleazy or potentially anti-meritocratic. But when I recast the process as seeking Win/Win it is a lot more palatable.


How is it win/win? How does the person you’re asking the favor of benefit?

Potentially in several ways. First, the person you’re asking will often be flattered that you’re seeking their help, and will appreciate the opportunity to assist. Second, the person may be able to use the act of introducing you to a colleague as a way to reconnect and catch up with that colleague. And then there’s always the possibility that down the road you’ll be able to return the favor in some as yet unspecified way.

Of course every favor you ask won’t be acknowledged or acted upon. Sometimes people are too busy to respond, swamped with work, family, and/or health issues. Or they may be not think highly enough of you to feel comfortable making that introduction. In any case, there’s certainly no harm in asking.

My advice: enter the marketplace of favors boldly and unashamed.