Networking can be one of the most difficult parts of job hunting. Or of life, for that matter. Sometimes you can meet someone who will actually become a colleague or a true friend. Other times, and more often than not, you meet someone who becomes a 5-minute friend.

This is especially true in a transient environment – people move into an area, they have no family close, and you meet. This can be at a social club, a church, a job-seeker group or other professional networking event. You exchange business cards or email addresses and go on your way.

The woman who introduced herself as a financial planner quickly emails, asking if you have time to meet for coffee; saying she’d love to see how you can help each other in business.

In reality, she sells life insurance and has a hard sales pitch. You drink the hot coffee and escape as quickly as possible. And you never hear from her again.

Then there is the other one who sells some sort of food program for dieting – similar to Nutrisystem but a different name that I can’t remember. I don’t remember her name either.

And of course we can’t forget the men and women who have been writing a book for years, and want to ‘pick your brain’ about how to get it edited and published, but don’t want to pay anything – just want your expertise pro bono.

So how do I avoid becoming a 5-minute friend?

I ask questions about your life, your work, your business, and I listen when you answer.

I don’t just sit there preparing my own speech.

I listen for common ground and join in that discussion.

I don’t try to sell you anything.

I listen to what you do and think of ways I can help you in your business or career.

I don’t ask you to give your time and expertise for free.

To become more than a 5-minute friend, I have to invest something of myself in you. My time, my energy, my goodwill. Something. As Stephen Covey said years ago, a relationship is like a bank account. There are deposits and withdrawals, and they can be bankrupted.

So who has only received a 5-minute deposit from you lately?

Do you have more to give? Do it.

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