Networking – whether in person or online – seems like it should be a piece of cake. Meet someone, find out how you can mutually help each other and bam! A relationship is born. But as anyone who has done a lot of networking can tell you, that is rarely the case. Following are five networking mistakes that are committed over and over – and how to fix or avoid them.
1. Confusing Quantity with Quality
You know the guy who’s hopping around at a business event, passing out and collecting cards, but not stopping long enough to really talk to anyone? Having someone’s contact information is NOT networking. The best contact list in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know those people. When you’re at an event, make a point to have meaningful conversations with three or four people. Find out enough about them so you know how to move to the next level.
2. Not Following-Up
So you meet someone. Then what? It’s up to you to move the relationship to the next level by following up your conversation with an email or invitation to coffee, or suggestion to connect on social media. Taking the time to follow up in a meaningful way, shortly after the encounter, reminds them where you met and helps cement the meeting as more than just idle chatter at an event.
3. Not Giving People a Clear Idea of How They Can Help You
Are you job hunting? Then specifically mention the type of work that you are interested in and ask if they know someone you could meet with. Or perhaps you browsed their LinkedIn contacts and saw someone that you would love an introduction to. Go ahead and ask your contact! Most people truly want to be helpful but lots of times they don’t know exactly what you need. Make sure you have articulated it so they can help you.
4. Expecting Too Much from Someone
Yes, make clear what would be helpful, as mentioned in Point 3. But don’t expect they will get on it immediately, or that they will make a special effort with executives or other higher ups whom perhaps they don’t know very well. Or, maybe they don’t know you very well, and hesitate to recommend you too strongly since they’ve never actually worked with you. Take care to read the vibe of the person you’re talking with, and note when it seems that you are asking too much or coming on too strong. Also, be judicious. Don’t ask the same person for an introduction again and again. Assess the best “ask” you can make and then move on to someone else. (And, of course, don’t forget to thank anyone who helps you – no matter how small the assistance!)
5. Selling Rather than Connecting
Remember that networking is “getting to know someone,” not an opportunity for a hard sell. Perhaps the person you met is a perfect candidate for your services. That’s great! You certainly want to maximize the contact, since that’s the point of networking – to improve your career. But, tread lightly. Get to know the person first, before you launch into a sales presentation. Treat the person like a friend, not a “target” and the sales opportunity will eventually present itself if you don’t rush it.
The art of networking is exactly that – an art form. Successful networkers know the power of their network, and are careful to build it strategically and slowly.
by Cathie Ericson