But for job seekers who aren’t networking pros, the whole thing can feel pretty scary. After all, there are lots of ways to screw up relationships of any kind – especially the professional variety. Particularly vulnerable to failure: those new contacts we meet at meet-ups, events, conferences, and even on airplanes and at Starbucks. For some reason, we never seem to get around to turning those contacts into mutually-beneficial relationships!
Here are just a few reasons why that doesn’t happen, and why your personal networking isn’t growing anywhere near as fast as you’d like, and perhaps need:
1. You Failed to Thank Them Properly
Saying thank you after a phone call, email or exchange or meeting is such a small point, but so lasting an impression.
Someone I once worked with contacted me and I met with her. She was very excited about what she was doing with her career. I listened, offered some suggestions plus a name or two, and wished her luck. She shook my hand, asked if she could use me as a reference…and then she left. I never got a thank you or even heard from her again. It leaves an impression, but not a good one.
If you didn’t already know: networking contacts talk to their networking contacts and, in turn, they talk to their contacts. So the impression you leave in one place can travel far – and so can a heartfelt thank you.
2. You Approached a Meeting With Little Focus
You may still be in the career exploration stage, but before meeting with a potential networking contact you must narrow down your areas of interest. That way, they can see you’ve at least seriously thought about what you want – even if the exact picture remains unclear.
You want to engage this new contact in your vision and goals; you want them to become an active participant. To do that, you must your values, skills, strong interests, and the kinds of things you might like to try. And show enthusiasm for things you really care about! That way, if you aren’t 100% sure of the job or career you want, you leave room for someone to say “Gee…I don’t know anyone in those fields, but have you ever thought of…”
3. You Didn’t Follow Up (or Follow Up Too Much)
Following up after a networking moment helps that new contact realize you appreciate their effort, sets up the possibility of an ongoing relationship, and helps keeps them invested in your success. Done well, sincere follow up is networking gold. That includes following up again when their advice helped, you met a contact through them, or you’ve landed a job or internship. Updates matter, a lot.
On the other hand: writing or calling them every week can become turn a relationship toxic. Just like with any relationship, respect and sincere communication goes a long way.
4. You Make Every Conversation “The Story of You”
Yes, people like to talk about themselves. But when you make it clear you aren’t at all interested in them (really interested in them – not just pretending) you are throwing up barriers that often can’t be overcome.
The strongest networking contacts are built on two-way relationships. At the very least, watch for things they mention you might ask about. Better yet: do your research so you know something about them or the company they work for and can prepare questions.
5. You Get Too Familiar, Too Soon.
While it’s important to do your research if at all possible… you don’t want to use what you find to step out of bounds at this tentative stage in the relationship. Make sure you wait for the right opening before getting at all personal. And when (if) you do, proceed gently and wait to see if they react positively.
The wrong approach is: “Hey! I Googled you and see you really love tennis. Me too! (Contact is already cringing as you continue…) Where do you like to play?” If they bring it up first, of course, that subject is now fair territory – just stay away from Stalkerville as you continue the conversation.
6. To Gain the Connection, You Told a Little White Lie
Sending an connect request and by saying they are “colleague” or “friend” or “we’ve done business together” – when you clearly aren’t or didn’t – is a networking fail.
Finding clever, legitimate ways to connect is far better than the “white lie” strategy. To connect to people you don’t know on LinkedIn, for instance, join a group they’re in; connections are allowed if you belong in the same group. Alumni or other specialized groups are especially helpful. Or you can find people in common and ask for an introduction.
7. You Are Perceived as Less Than Likeable
Even though none of us can be on our best behavior all the time, online or off, it’s good to remember that people generalize from that first networking moment how a person might behave in the workplace.
So acting like a troll, dismissing the ideas and opinions of others, and openly challenging those you disagree with in a disrespectful manner may indicate you aren’t as likeable as your profile indicates. It pays to take a breath or two before taking a contrarian stance.
8. You Didn’t Realize That We’re Always Networking
Impressions are built any time you speak to someone or they hear about you. So, basically, we’re always networking, whether in person or when leaving digital footprints.
People you meet today at any level (yes, even receptionists or folks in the mail room, as hard as it may be for you to imagine, may one day be the person that opens a career door for you. Or you for them.
Want your network to grow at a quicker pace? Avoid these networking mistakes. And remember: you never, ever know which contact could have been the one to make that key introduction, provide a referral to their current employer, or come to you with a partnership opportunity.
Take good care… of every member of your personal network!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!
About the Author: Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, Career Nook and on Google+.