Value First, Reciprocity Second

What does a person who asks someone they don’t know for a job on LinkedIn have in common with a burglar?

They both want something, and they feel like they own the right to have it.

That’s the issue. When someone wants something, in the previous case, a job, and go hunting for it…9 times out of 10, it just won’t work. But why? Well consider this example:

You’re sitting in the living room of your condo watching Netflix. All of a sudden, a person you don’t know kicks the door open, marches towards the kitchen and grabs something to eat. They then proceed to exit, all the while expecting you to offer them a warm invitation to dinner the same night. Would you want to invite this kind of person to dinner? Probably not.

Now I know this is an exaggerated example, but I use it to get the point across. And the point is this:

When you talk to someone you don’t yet know (whether in person or using social platforms) and ask for something upfront, you will likely be ignored. Why is that? Well, for one, the person doesn’t know you and isn’t inclined to help, and the person probably gets other messages like yours but with only so much time during the day, they can only help so many people (so it’s not that they don’t want to help, it’s just that sometimes your position for asking can be seen as inconsiderate of their time).

Instead, I often encourage people to play the value game. Give something first, and reciprocation may occur. That’s the invisible bargain. That’s what’ll get you through the door to many more opportunities.

Let’s use the same example (of someone looking for a job), but apply this context:

Someone wants to work at Google. Its been their dream job since they were 5. Instead of plainly reaching out to a recruiter or manager at Google with an ask (like “Hi there, I’m looking for a job”), what if that person takes time to do some detailed research on how Google can better align itself in the next 10 years to understand the evolving consumer needs from one generation to the next i.e. Millennials to Gen Z. If that person sends their 2-page research paper to a manager and asks for just 15 minutes of their time to discuss it, don’t you think that the manager will be more open to having a chat?

From there, it’s important to learn how to foster value creation. It can’t be just something you do to get your foot in the door – you have to play the long game. This means that after having the first meaningful interaction with the person you connected with, it’s equally important to genuinely take interest in them – learn about their story, experiences, and background…then use this information to get on a more personal level (or less formal relationship). You’ll also have to keep growing the relationship, and continue to pass on value – once you know what they’re all about, you can proceed to send them an article for example that you know they’d be interested in or connecting them with a person who may be a good lead/potential customer. These are just some ways to provide value, but also maintain the relationship and grow it to something more tangible – where true reciprocity may occur.