Keep Your Friends Close—Especially If They’re Potential Business Partners

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Good place to hang with friends? Yes. Good place to network with friends? Maybe not.

When you’re trying to get a job, it can be hard to ask for help. And it can be ever harder if the person you need to ask used to know how bad you smelled after basketball practice.

Yes, there’s a fine line between being friends and being business partners. Your mission, job seeker: walk cautiously around it.


Your professional network should include not only your work colleagues but also your friends. What’s tricky is that you can’t interact with both the same way; the recipe for success is different.

Typically, communicating with friends is much more laid back. The stories you’d tell your buddies are not the same ones you’d tell someone you work with (at least, I hope). So, what can you do if you want to network with some old friends? Here are a few tips I’ve learned.

Set The Right Expectations

When you reach out to a new professional contact, you’ll likely introduce yourself and explain what you’ve been doing and what you’re thinking of doing next. This usually happens via email. A very formal, informative, and boastful email.

With friends, no explanations are needed. You probably text them whenever something happens in your life. They may be more up to date with YOUR life than you are. But, if you want to network with your friend, a professional email or a private message is the way to go, so your purpose doesn’t get “lost in textlation.”

During that initial contact, make it clear why you want to set up a meeting and try to set it up during the daytime. That way, when you meet, you don’t get sidetracked talking about old flames or stories or even get tempted to party. Let them know that you are looking for work—not just for fun.

Pick A Meeting Spot That Screams “PROFESSIONAL!”

Once you set up an appropriate meeting time, pick a venue. Whether it’s in your apartment, a park, a coffee shop, or a bar, find a place that isn’t too loud or too busy. You want somewhere you can sit down and talk comfortably. Go somewhere that gives off the right vibe.

Be mindful of what you want your friend to get out of this. Bringing them to a dive bar or a Jacuzzi likely won’t make the professional impression you hope. I won’t take a meeting seriously if it’s at an amusement park, and you wouldn’t talk business at a Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Don’t Be Too Pushy

It’s tricky to ask a friend for a favor. Just because someone is your friend doesn’t mean they have to do something for you. Acting that way can make things uncomfortable.

With friends, it’s more about supporting each other. Assuming they’ll help you no matter what can hinder your friendship and make them feel unappreciated.

If you are going to propose a business idea or a networking opportunity, with a friend, tell them why you want to do it. Don’t just ask them to do it. Show them what motivates you. What makes you BELIEVE in what you are proposing.

Remember: If your friend recommends you for a job or connects you with someone in their network, they’re vouching for you. By helping them understand your intentions, you’ll make them feel a lot more comfortable taking your friendship to that network level.

Got any tips for networking with friends? Share them in the comments.

(Photo: masterd)

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