I network online and face-to-face. I attend a minimum of two networking events per month and have done so for many years. In that time I’ve had successes. However, I’ve made a lot of networking mistakes. A lot. If you’re hard-headed like me and have to learn from your mistakes, you can quit reading now. This won’t help. But if you’re one of the lucky ones who learn from the mistakes of others, read on. After perusing this, if you only recognized one destructive networking behavior in yourself and commit to improving it then this will be worth the two to three minutes it will take to read the post.
Get Out of the House
Have you forgotten about face-to-face networking? I’ve networked with hundreds of people online, haven’t you? And for many of them, it would be difficult, due to location, to meet face-to-face. However, when it’s possible meeting in person adds another dimension to the engagement. It’s not only hearing a voice, listening to inflection, understanding emphasis, and adding body language to the conversation; it’s also looking into someone eyes and connecting.
You, You, and more You
Don’t make it all about you. Don’t interrupt others, and don’t hijack the conversation. “Don’t ask anyone to lie for you, don’t steal connections, don’t expect others to do the work you should do, and put your motives on the table. Networking should be a positive helping experience, not a hijack.” — Don’t Confuse Networking with Hijacking.
A friend told me they were done with networking because they didn’t gain any benefits from it. My antennae went up immediately. I asked a few questions about their networking preparation and participation and then I hit on the reason they felt this way. They expected too much. They thought just showing up should bring them new customers.
Whether someone is networking for new customers or a new job their networking expectations should be to make connections to explore and follow up – networking is the beginning, not the end.
Not Building a Personal Brand
What is a personal brand? It’s how you behave online and off. It’s the topics for which you’re known as an expert, but it’s more than that it’s how you approach things, your thought processes, ethics, and your demeanor. It’s also how you dress, how you carry yourself, and how you communicate. It’s what people come to expect from you so make it good.
Not Following Up
Connecting with folks who might be able to help each other should be one of the primary reasons for networking, but without follow-up how can that be accomplished? Whether it’s a follow-up meeting, coffee, correspondence, or a workplace appointment, networking stalls without specific follow up.
Not Knowing What You Need
“Before attending any networking event ask yourself why you’re going and what you want. Are you seeking customers, looking for a job, or hoping to connect with a vendor? Building a networking event plan begins with recognizing what you want or need.” — The Number One Rule of Networking.
More Networking Mistakes
- Spending all your time with friends
- Being a wallflower
- Not vetting the list of attendees
- No elevator pitch
- Asking for too much
- Arriving late
- Forgetting business cards
- Inappropriate behavior
- Improper dress
- Not saying thank you
Don’t Turn Networking into a Mistake
When you make the networking mistakes I’ve made at events, as well as online, it’s easy to turn a networking opportunity into a networking mistake. If you behave professionally, know what you want, respect others, and follow up, chances are you’ll gain benefits from networking. When you approach networking from the perspective of putting others first, it can be a rewarding experience.