Here are nine networking mistakes I see from individuals of all experience levels, including seasoned career professionals. Many of these are mistakes I’ve made myself:
- Networking sporadically. During the holidays I noticed a distinct uptick in people reaching out and re-connecting. But what happens after the seasonal cheer wears off and everyone is back in the office, under the gloom of mid-winter blues? Yeah, see you next December. Networking is a continuous effort, in good times and bad. Find reasons to connect, whether it’s an article that someone might like or a conversation that made you think of a specific person. Don’t be someone who connects only once a year, when everyone else is trying to do the same.
- Being a “taker” rather than a “giver.” Networking works best when you adopt a mindset of giving to others first. Be willing to let the relationship evolve from there. Remember that making deposits to the “emotional bank account” now can’t help but accumulate interest over time. Be a giver first, rather than a taker, and watch how it creates bigger opportunities and better options for the future.
- Failing to follow up. At the start of a new relationship, building trust is important. The quickest way to sabotage a new relationship is to promise something and not deliver. No matter how small, do what you say you will do, whether it’s passing on a name to someone in your network or emailing the url of a blog that was mentioned in your conversation.
- Lack of acknowledgment. People want to know that their effort to give to others is appreciated, no matter the outcome. If you get an email introduction to someone who can help you, always thank the person who made the introduction. Copy them when you attempt to connect with the person being introduced. Give them the courtesy of hearing the outcome of their efforts. If someone takes the time to give you feedback (e.g., on your website, on the impression you made on them, on how you are proceeding with your job search, on whether you are a fit for a job), let them know that you heard the feedback—even if you don’t agree with it. Complete the conversation. Silence is not always golden.
- Expecting others to network for you. In the course of meeting new people, you may get an offer from someone to help you network—by sending on a resume, talking with a neighbor, or checking with a hiring manager on openings. This willingness to help is great and it’s misdirected if you count on having a middleman. Ask for the contact information of the person you are hoping to get the attention of. Or ask for an email introduction to that person. It’s your responsibility to move the ball forward, not someone else’s. Be proactive.
- Missing an opportunity to be a connector. These last four mistakes relate to playing the role of a connector when networking. In this role, it’s not just about making a connection with a new person, it’s making connections between people. What people often forget is how they can add value by connecting someone in their network to someone they are just meeting for the first time. Be on the lookout for these opportunities. It will take your networking effectiveness to another level.
- Providing a weak introduction, or none at all, to two parties. A weak introduction is akin to no introduction. Take the time to do it right. People will remember you for it. When playing the role of a connector, make it appealing for both sides to meet. Give specifics on what makes each person so special in your eyes. Speculate on what could happen if they meet. Don’t rely on the fact that because you think it’s a good idea, both parties will, too.
- Connecting two people where there isn’t a perceived win-win. This is sometimes the reason for a weak introduction, because the person making the introduction can’t articulate why both parties would benefit in meeting. Sometimes, only one party benefits. Consider carefully why both parties would want to meet before making a solid introduction.
- Passing on bad apples, without warning. If you are a great networker, people in your network will trust you to introduce them to quality people—responsible adults with good intentions, integrity, and a generous spirit. Don’t connect two people if you think it might undermine that trust. At the very least, let the person who might end up with the short end of the stick know what they might be getting into.
I’m curious to know. How many of these mistakes are ones you made? What would you add to this list?
Photos by shashiBellamkonda