Networking is a vital part of building your career and achieving success. However, there are many mistakes people make when trying to build and maintain their networks, such as lack of preparation, not the right amount of diligence, and the absence of boundaries.
Most people think they can wing it when it comes to networking events. They think by arriving in a nice suit with a flashy smile will automatically open doors for them. This is a rarity. Networking actually requires a great deal of preparation and planning. For example, it doesn’t matter how great you look if you attend the wrong networking event, in terms of fit. Researching good events and important people is essential to successful networking. Always make sure you are spending your time wisely and expending effort where the opportunities are fruitful.
When arriving at an event, many people flounder when it comes to expressing themselves. It is absolutely essential you have your “elevator speech” prepared before you walk into a networking event. Be able to explain where you work, your job, your level of expertise and your goal for networking in thirty seconds or less. This should be a smooth and confident speech that can be slightly altered dependent on the occasion or location. End with a question to get the other individual talking like “How about you?” or “Why are you here today?” Carefully listen so you can ask more questions or determine that this connection isn’t right for you.
Another pet peeve I have is when individuals aren’t ready to share their information. I can’t tell you how many times someone forgot their business cards, or can’t seem to locate a pen and paper, and waste my time and theirs on the simple process of exchanging information. First and foremost, always make sure you have your business cards on you at all times. Secondly, carry a pen and small pad of paper in your pocket or purse in the event that additional information needs to be shared.
Another good method is to text the other individual any information they require, in which case they have your phone number as well. If you set yourself up as a contact in your own phone, most mobile devices allow you to text someone your full contact information in a few easy clicks. Always be ready to share your information in five seconds or less.
Diligence is essential in good networking. You must do what you say you are going to do and follow through with timely communication. However, there is a delicate balance to diligence. A common mistake I see is when people become over-diligent. They will meet someone at a networking event and then proceed to call them every day until they get a response. Any positive connection that came out of the networking event quickly turns into a negative one because the person has become an annoying nuisance.
Realize that people have busy lives and careers, and may not always be able to respond quickly. Keep messages and communications short and to the point. If you find that you have left three messages without a response, cease leaving messages. This person was either not honest with you, doesn’t currently have time, or may even be out of town. Move on to your next opportunity and hope that a response can be procured at a later time. Being diligent is definitely a plus, but don’t put yourself into the category of an irritating bother.
Networking is a great resource for opportunities, but it can also serve as a drain if you don’t create boundaries. A mistake a lot of people make is that they put too much effort into helping others, and not enough into gaining support in return. If you find a relationship with an individual is more of a drain than a help, you may want to reconsider your commitment to that relationship. Especially if you are a mover and shaker, there will be plenty of people out there who want to take advantage of your contacts. Giving your assistance freely is certainly a great policy, but be sure that you are also making the effort to glean assistance in return. Balanced relationships are always the best networking connections.
Last but not least, you are networking for a reason. Therefore, like any other part of your career, you should have goals for what you want to get out of networking and adhere to these goals. A mistake that a lot of people make is not having networking goals, and therefore they do not have a clear roadmap as to what they need to get out of the process. Goals will help you from making clear mistakes like wasting your time or effort, being unprepared, or not creating boundaries. Networking is too essential to your career to not have clear objectives and purpose to your networking activities.
Keep yourself mistake-free, and good luck with your networking!
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