Should networking and mentoring relationships be one-sided?

by Edward Henkler on September 16, 2014

One of my colleagues recently posted his opinion of who should pay in a networking meeting.  His no-nonsense opinion was if you invited me, you should pay (it’s your party).  The one time we met that’s exactly how it was handled and, after five years of networking, it remains a somewhat unique occurrence.  In all other cases, the costs were shared or paid by the person who was employed (if the other party was in transition).  I believe that assuming that the other person should pay solely because they initiated the meeting presumes that there will be no shared benefit from the conversation.  The following three examples all show the potential for unexpected mutual benefit in almost any relationship.

Anyone who has mentored others more than casually has undoubtedly reaped a benefit.  A classic case is of an older mentor helping a younger colleague.  Initially, it’s a one way relationship as the mentor imparts the wisdom of experience.  Eventually, many mentors will admit that they gain a better understanding of how to manage their younger subordinates or even their children.  Others have noted a renewed sense of energy and purpose as they help someone whose dreams are all still in front of them.

Networking need not be one-sided

Just because a mobius strip is one-sided doesn’t mean your relationships can’t benefit both parties.


A similar outcome was noted with Walgreen’s diversity initiative.  Employing more individuals who were differently-abled, yielded higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and lower turnover.  The somewhat surprising unanticipated benefit was that the affected first line supervisors began to enjoy their work more as their subordinates were so happy to be employed.

My last example is from “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly, which I’ve written about before.  The Dream Manager (DM) is an actual role, a combination strategic and financial planner.  The DM meets voluntarily with employees to identify then implement actions to realize their dreams.  After a number of months, the subject DM confesses that the positive experiences helping others are infusing every aspect of his life, at work and personally, with more joy.

Next time you engage another person in networking, mentoring, or any other type of assistance, don’t get trapped into thinking it’s a one-way relationship.  We can always learn from the other person, if we’re open to it.  Whether you pay or not is a personal choice but don’t get trapped into thinking there is no benefit for you.

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