May 16, 2010

15 Networking Mistakes You Can't Make!

Networking, networking, networking.

We’ve all heard about it and we’re sure you’re all doing it — but are you doing it right? Trying to develop job leads and new business contacts the wrong way can be just as damaging as not trying at all, if not worse. You want to (net)work smart, not hard, so make sure you’re making all the right moves.

AdminSecret shows you just how to build the network of your dreams without making the mistakes everyone else is making.

Need-Based Contact

Imagine you have a friend or relative that you only hear from when he needs money. Do you take their calls? Do you look forward to hearing from him? Very quickly, you have no desire to do anything to help him.

The same goes for networking. If you only get in touch with a contact when you need something—a job, a reference, etc.—their desire to help you will be quickly vanish. Remember, these people are under no obligation to lend you a hand, they want to get something out of the relationship too.

What to do? Make a point of sending an e-mail periodically to just say hello, ask how your contact is doing, or send her something interesting. Not only will this prevent you from being a networking mooch, it will strengthen your relationship so when you do need something, you’ll get it.

Not Knowing What You Want

You’ve gotten in touch. Your contact was very positive and wants to speak to you further. You go to meet him and all you are prepared to talk about is what you’ve done in the past or very vague plans for the future. Your wasting his (and your) time.

Before you get into an extended conversation with a contact, figure out what you want for yourself. Is there a particular job that he could give you ideas about how to get? Are you considering a new career path and want to know what steps you should take to start down it? Is there a particular company you’re interested in and want to know more about it?

Whatever it is, figure it out. If you don’t, you’ll not only fail to get valuable information, you’ll ruin the contact who will now see you as unfocused and listless.

Failure to Mobilize

You may think that the job search process is straight forward.

1. See if contacts know of opportunities. Pursue those first.
2. Look on sites like Monster.com and Craigslist for jobs.
3. Prepare resumes and cover letters.
4. Submit.
5. Wait.

You know to network at the beginning of the search process, but you should also be networking at the end. Even if you found a job through a posting, do a deep dive into your contacts to see if anyone has any connection to that company. A friend of a friend might work their already and you wouldn’t even know.

The least time intensive way to do this is Facebook. Your network on Facebook is probably much larger than on a site like LinkedIn. Search Facebook for the company. There might be a group associated with it or you might just come up with profiles of people who work there. Find them and see if you have any mutual friend. Then mobilize.

Resume, Unprompted

How many e-mails do you get a day? Probably more than you’d like and probably fewer than someone who can help you move up or get a job. If you send your resume unprompted, you’re just asking for it to go straight to the trash. Just like in any conversation, you need to break the ice first. If a person can (and is willing) to assist you, they’ll ask for your resume. It’s not like they’re sitting around their offices, twiddling their thumbs, thinking, “Gosh! I wonder what his resume looks like!”

Overestimating Your Bond

You may think you know a contact well, but unless you’re seeing or corresponding with her regularly it’s better to play it safe. If you come off as presumptuous, you come off as rude and drastically diminish your chances of getting help.

When you reach out to one of these “weak” contacts (and face it, most are weak contacts), be as deferential as possible. Ask more questions, make fewer statements. And keep it short. If they want to and have the ability to give you more of their time, they will open the door for you.

Not Doing Your Homework

So you’ve got the contact right in front of you. Great … what now? Well, if you don’t know who the person is or what they want out of you there’s no way you’re actually going to get what you want.

Everyone likes to feel special, or at least recognized, so make sure that you know at least the basics about your contacts before you approach them, unless you’re in the most casual of networking situations. Besides, think about how much they’ll be relieved not to have to introduce themselves and sum up who they are for the hundredth time!

Being Overly Aggressive

We’ve all been there: Stuck on a plane next to someone who just won’t shut up about where they’re going, walking down the street being followed by a persistent petitioner, or trying get away from the biggest bore at the party. You need to be outgoing and persistent while networking, but you certainly don’t want to be a pest.

Make sure you’re reading the verbal and non-verbal signs for indications that your contact just isn’t into it anymore. Letting a reluctant person get away is better than forcing them to stay against their will. You might get a second chance!

Not Seeking Mentors

You have a new contact. He has extensive experience. You were about to start looking for a new job and you send an e-mail:

It was so nice to meet you. I’m looking for a new job and thought you might know of some opportunities.

MISTAKE

Especially with new contacts, it is important to approach them as a person in search of a mentor. While they may be able to help you get a job, they could also help you discover new career paths and opportunities you hadn’t even thought of.

It was so nice to meet you. I was hoping you would be willing to talk with me further about the direction of my career. Your experience and insights would be immensely valuable.

What’s more, they get something out of the relationship. As your career advances, they can take satisfaction in having helped you and you may even become a useful contact for them.

Not Following-Up

You’ve gone to all that trouble to make the contact – why let it go to waste? You need to follow up after every meeting and job interview to reiterate your interest and to ensure you remain at the very front of his or her mind. Remember – people are busy. And you probably aren’t their number one priority. But they are your number one priority, right? Make sure they know it.

Don’t let two weeks to slip by before you get back in touch. Sending a thank you letter or email within 24 hours of your meeting will go a long way towards making a good impression and keeping you on their radar. And don’t be afraid to get back in touch within a couple of weeks if you still haven’t heard back. Persistence pays.

Gauche at Networking Events

A lot of networking takes place at parties or events. You probably know the obvious rules: don’t drink too much, don’t be sloppy with food, don’t talk with your mouth full.

But how you interact with hors d’oeuvers is equally important. In one episode of Seinfeld, George Castanza looks like a total fool when he grabs not one but a handful of cocktail snacks from a waitress. Then asks her where she comes out so he can get a head start. When a woman sees what he’s done, he embarrassingly says, “She’s been ignoring this seciton the whole night.”

Don’t look like a fool. Ignore the hors d’oeuvres. If you happen to be near a waiter bringing them around, take one. Don’t pursue the waiter. Don’t lie in wait for him. Pay attention to the networking, not the cocktail weanies.

Always Taking, Never Giving

Networking is a two way street. If you’re reaching out to your contacts every time you need a something – a job, a sales lead, a favor – without ever giving back, people will stop being so willing to help.

And rightly so. A good networker is ready and willing to help their contacts wherever they can. Did you meet someone who you know would be a great contact for your friend? Introduce them! Know of a job lead that might be perfect for your contact’s unemployed son? Hook it up! If your network sees you as a resource, they’ll be more inclined to nurture and maintain this mutually beneficial relationship.

Negativity

You’ve probably heard it before, but attitude is everything — and your attitude is catching. We know, we know, it sounds so hokey, but it’s really true. If you come off as negative or not into the whole thing while you’re networking it’s going to be that much harder for people to feel all that great about working with you in the future.

Remember: You’re selling yourself as much as you’re trying to get something from other people. Make sure you’re selling something they would want to buy!

Not Asking Questions

People love to talk about themselves. Including you. Instead of talking incessantly about your needs, your goals and your interests, throw in a question here or there. Give them some room to get a word in. Prompt them to tell you a little bit about themselves. This way, not only will they feel like they are actually part of the conversation, but you’ll actually learn a little bit about them. And the more you know about them, the more you’ll know what they can do for you and even – brace yourself —what you can do for them.

Poor Etiquette

Etiquette – good or bad – can extend from table manners to punctuality to your approach to social networking. And if you think people don’t notice, you’re wrong. Committing this type of blunder is so self destructive, it deserves its own article. In a nutshell, mind your manners!

Don’t be late to meetings, enter group conversations sensitively, don’t talk with your mouth full and keep your emails (and your Facebook profile) professional. A common etiquette mistake – and one that will quickly land you a top spot on the blacklist – is to share a person’s contact details without their permission. Check in with them first. Always. Even if you’re doing them a favor.

Not Tying Up Loose Ends

You found a new job! You reached out to everyone you knew who might be able to help you. They helped you find opportunities, got your foot in the door, secured interviews and now it’s finally over.

Not quite.

You will probably need those people again at some point in the future. Write them a thank you note for their help and let them know what you ended up doing. And you cannot just do this for the person or people who helped you find the job you took. Do it for everyone who helped or offered to.

And come on, it’s just polite.

~Courtesy of AdminSecret

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