Networking is an important part of managing your career, but there are some common mistakes to avoid. Here is a brief list of the no-no’s that can undermine your efforts to network, connect, and grow your career.
Confusing networking with a sales opportunity.
You’re there to build connections that will last a career, not sell yourself to everyone in the room. Listen more than you speak, offer to give something of value (advice, solutions, a connection of your own) whenever you can, and take it slow. Networking isn’t about speed, it’s a long-term commitment to build relationships that benefit your connection AND you.
Practice your Elevator Pitch and design the 10 second speech you use to introduce yourself to include your job title, career goals, and what you have to offer a network connection in one smooth run. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. You know what you do, where you’d like to take your career, and you probably know why people would find you a valuable connection, too.
This is a common mistake, but one of the worst. If you offer to get someone the contact information for your last boss, or suggest you go for coffee to talk about what they can do for your career, DON’T put off the follow-up. Call, send an email, even a text, do something to acknowledge the plans you’d talked about and to make further arrangements. If you’re suddenly swamped or have a personal emergency, a quick note by email or text that says “I’m handling a sudden deluge of work, but I have NOT forgotten.” is worth sending. Just a quick check-in can save the connection you’ve made.
Undervaluing Your Contacts.
Rarer, but this mistake still happens and it’s worth a reminder: The connections you make are valuable over the life of your career. Don’t burn a contact on impulse, as you’re only hurting yourself in the long term. For instance: If you’re referred by an acquaintance to an open position that turns out to be a poor fit, be gracious about the error and move on. Becoming impatient or rude in an interview arranged by someone who was trying to help you grow your career reflects poorly back on the person who referred you, damaging THEIR network.
Poor Value Exchange.
No one wants to maintain a connection to someone who takes without giving. You must offer value to your network relationships. Advice, solutions, connections, information, add something to your connections every time you interact. Even a simple promise to keep your ear to the ground for an open position or a candidate for a job is valuable. Networking is a two-way street!