You may not know it yet, but while you are working hard to build a respectable personal brand – you may be doing the exact opposite. While you labor to extend your contact list and sphere of influence – you are actually limiting your potential.
All because you’re making these nine easily fixable rookie networking mistakes:
Your Profile… Sucks
Your online profiles are your first, and sometimes only, impression. Not your latest tweet. Not the kitten picture you posted on Facebook. And not the latest picture of your dinner on Instagram.
Depending on your career goals, get yourself a professional-quality “head shot” or an image that displays your core personality. And please write something unique about you, versus those generic, boring, blah-blah-blah quips that mean nothing, like this one:
“Marketing major at SW Eastern Louisiana Tech State seeking my first opportunity in PR. Go Bullfrogs!”
I want to get to know you – the employable you – in 3 seconds… make it easy! (For an example of a profile that does just that, see the Twitter profile of @luckyandi)
Networking For the Wrong Reason
Rent due? Need a job, now? Need a mentor? In other words… feeling desperate? Desperation – in any form – is not a great reason for networking. And people notice.
Correcting this mistake is easy: start early. Well before you need a job, a mentor, or influence… begin building the relationships that may result in success. If you can’t do that – if you really do need a job now – exhibit some patience and class… good will happen.
Choosing Quantity over Quality (or Klout over Clout)
Far too many networkers – not just us rookies – make this mistake: we confuse the number of followers we have for power to influence. Or we focus on our Klout score, versus generating genuine clout (with a ‘c’).
Fact is that it is relatively easy to get a couple thousand followers at a time… instead of developing personal, mutually-beneficial relationships. Long-term, however, people see right through the people with accounts that have inexplicably gained 10,000 followers in a month. Don’t be that guy.
Premature Expectations: Asking Before Knowing
How else can we determine how desperate you are? When you ask for a favor… well before you’ve made any attempt to build a mutually-beneficial relationship. A real world example that happens often:
“I just read your post on getting the recruiter’s attention with your resume, and I’d like you to read my attached resume and get your opinion…”
Tempted to ask a person you just met for resume advice? Want to send a “I want to pick your brain…” message in your first tweet? Just don’t.
Wait to build the relationship before asking for a favor… you’ll be glad you did.
Choosing Not to Personalize Contact Requests
Speaking of first contact… how hard is it, really, to generate a personalized note when reaching out to someone on Twitter, and especially LinkedIn?
I know some experts feel this is unnecessary. I know it is much easier to just click a couple buttons rather than think about what’s in it for the other guy. As a person who receives dozens of these requests a week now, though… all I think about is the apparent lack of effort you’re willing to put into a potential relationship.
Wasting Time on Divas, Drama Queens and Trolls
Social media networking, even for the best in the world at creating influence, can be a major timesuck.
To stay on focus – and to build an impactful sphere of influence – follow this simple rule: if someone is a diva (“Oh, my back hurts again today…”), drama queen (“I don’t know what I did wrong, but she hates me now…”) or a troll (“I disagree, and I’m going to announce it the world…”), walk away.
As much as these social media malcontents may need you to listen… these caustic relationships will not help you achieve your goals.
You think networking is a good idea. You jump in with both feet. You build some momentum – and start to build real relationships… and then disappear.
Like many aspects of building your career, networking demands pacing… and patience. Commit to an hour a day, every day – and the long-term results will speak for themselves.
Failure to Develop Your Own Voice
As personal branding becomes more important, it has become increasingly exhausting to read comments that are clearly based on what we think we’re supposed to say… or how we think we’re supposed to act… instead of being original.
No, you won’t always be right. Yes, you’ll have to take back some of what you say. Most certainly, you’ll attract the attention of the trolls. Still, demonstrating your own thoughts – and establishing your expertise while displaying some humble confidence – is a far better alternative than parroting the thoughts of others.
Not sure how to go about developing your own voice? Try this…
1) Ask good questions.
2) Listen to the answers.
3) Filter out the BS.
4) Form your own opinion.
Not Taking Relationships to Face-to-Face
You’ve worked so hard to develop your digital relationships. You can’t wait to get on Twitter or Facebook to see the latest comments to your comments. You anticipate new contacts on LinkedIn like they’re Christmas presents. And then… you do nothing.
Networking, no matter how digital the origin, is all about one thing: building human relationships.
Pick up the phone. Buy a cup of coffee. As my good friend Greg Hartle says, “Never eat alone”. Nothing solidifies a relationship like a voice to go with the profile, a handshake, a smile and real – human – eye contact.
Several years into my version of networking, I still make several of these mistakes myself; either by not consistently following my own advice – or by not focusing enough on what works for me. For each of us, networking is a hands-on experience, with a continuous learning curve. You can’t learn it in class, or from a book – and certainly not from this post alone.
You simply have to jump in – and make mistakes. Just not these nine, please.
For more information on how to network well, take a look at our webinar from last week: “How to Successfully Network as a Young Professional”.
About the Author: A passionate supporter of Gen Y talent, CEO and Founder of YouTern Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO regarding internships, higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce and career development. Recently, Mark was honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors”. Contact Mark via email or follow him on Twitter!