Networking Give and Take: What Does it Really Mean?

We often hear that networking and other relationships are about give and take, but what does that really mean? Networking is often likened to a bank account. When you open a bank account, you first have to make a deposit before you can withdraw any money. Even today with overdraft protection, that is a temporary measure for emergencies, and at some point, to balance your account, you have to make a substantial deposit. And so it is with your relationships, you have to first make deposits before you can make any withdrawals – you have to give before you take. And during emergencies when you have to take far more than you have given, later, you have to make a concerted effort to put more ‘give’ into the relationship and ‘take’ less.


So what does all of this have to do with job seekers? A lot! Time and time again, studies have shown that the most common way for job candidates to find employment is by networking. Therefore, understanding how networking works is critical to the job search success. The concept of give and take is so important that Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, researched the topic. According to Grant, the givers and takers are at two extremes, “The takers are people who, when they walk into an interaction with another person, are trying to get as much as possible from that person and contribute as little as they can in return, thinking that’s the shortest and most direct path to achieving their own goals.”


On the other hand he adds, “We have this strange breed of people that I call “givers.” It’s not about donating money or volunteering necessarily, but looking to help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring or sharing knowledge without any strings attached. These givers actually prefer to be on the contributing end of an interaction.” And Grant’s research supports the fact that the way to success is by giving – not taking! Therefore, whenever you meet interesting people at networking events, to follow-up and start giving to the relationship, do what Grant calls the 5-minute favor, which is asking yourself, “What value can I add for this person by spending five minutes or less?” When you have your answer, do exactly that.


What this research means, is that job seekers have to find ways to be of service to others, so that they are top-of-mind when employment opportunities arise. Give and take in action also means going through your contact list to determine which of your contacts need to meet each other, mentoring others with less experience, sharing important knowledge and information with your contacts. Even though you are being helpful without any strings attached, the law of reciprocity comes into play, and those you have given to, will want to return the favor. Read more about Adam Grant’s research on Givers and Takers.



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