The importance of networking to your career can never be overstated. When wielded properly, professional networking can improve your knowledge, create connections that move your career forward and keep you open to opportunities you may otherwise have missed. Networking doesn’t come naturally to many people and it is very easy to make networking moves that are cringe worthy. Knowing what to avoid when trying to use networking as a tool will put you in a better position to take full advantage of all the benefits that is intrinsic in networking.
The existence of social media means that you can be connected to a lot of people that you don’t otherwise know. Sometimes, you might find that you are connected on social media to someone of influence and decide to use their name to get a foot in the door. If you have no history with a person other than a social media connection, then this is an irresponsible thing to do. Exaggerating your relationship with someone can be easily interpreted as dishonesty and could make you seem untrustworthy.
There are two things you can do. Find someone who really knows you and can vouch for you and use them instead. If you must, then at least reach out to the influential person on social media and find out if they will help you get a foot in.
Failing to follow-up
When someone recommends you to someone else for a position or introduces you to someone who is in a position to hire you, the worst thing you can do for yourself is to fail to follow up on that opportunity. It takes a lot for a person to give you an introduction and when you fail to follow through, you waste everyone’s time. It can be discouraging for the person who took the effort to introduce you and eventually be a career-limiting move for you. Always try to follow up in a text, an email or a phone call. If possible, meeting up for coffee could place you in a better position to pitch.
When you don’t reciprocate
Networking is give and take. It works better when you both give and receive. If you want your networking efforts to yield more results, then don’t just work towards receiving introductions and recommendations. You should try to give them where possible as well. If you only contact your network when you are in need, then you will lose credibility. Networking doesn’t end with building it, you have to work towards maintaining it. Maintenance involves giving something in return. This could be valuable information, recommendations, introductions, or referrals. Everything you do contributes to the quality of your network.
Not being specific
When asking for help, you need to be as specific as possible. Make it easy for people to understand what you need so they can work towards providing you what you need without having to jump through loops to understand. If you’re looking for a job, be specific about the kind of job you want, if it’s a reference, let them know what you need to be in the reference. A good way to make this happen is to create a brief. When asking for job opportunities, approach it like a job advert. Present people in your network with a short summary of the type of role and organisation you would like, as well as reasons why you’ll be an ideal candidate.
Valuing quantity over quality
When it comes to networking, the quality of your connections far outweigh the quantity. A few relevant contacts who are able to do something for you or your business is much better than having a large number of connections whose names you can’t faces to. All the time and effort that goes into maintain your network would be wasted if you tried to increase the number without considering the value of those connection. Also, the larger your network is, the harder it is to maintain the degree of communication required to ensure that you stay in the mind of your contacts. If you already have a large number of connections, then you can manage your network by creating groups assigning them priority numbers so you can easily concentrate your efforts towards maintaining the more valuable ones.
Aggressive sales more often than not turns people off. When you are newly introduced, it might be tempting to immediately start to sell yourself or your business but the truth is this could end up causing you more harm than good. A better strategy is to invest in the relationship before you ask them to invest in you one way or another. What this means is you should try to get to know your new contact and find out if you can help them in anyway. This builds trust and makes the connection more authentic. That way, when you do ask for help or try to sell your business, you will be taken more seriously.
Networking is a valuable tool for progression both at the workplace and in your personal life. Don’t misuse it.