Whether you are job searching or looking for career advice, job networking can be a great tool. But there is a right way and a wrong way to approach it. Networking is not about building an enormous list of contacts or passing out business cards like you’re a poker dealer. Networking means building mutually beneficial relationships.
Here are some mistakes to avoid to network your way to success.
Green means go; don’t stop networking Job networking should be an ongoing process because building a network takes time. If you only network when you need a job, you’ll continued to be disappointed in the results. Invest time every month to stay in touch with past colleagues and meet new people so your network will be there when you need it. That way, it won’t come across as odd when you suddenly seek their help or advice when you really need it. And your opportunities only continue to grow when you regularly build your network. Plant seeds, water it, tend to it and watch it grow.
Avoiding social media sites Add a comment to a discussion, share an article or simply tweet a question. Real relationships can and do result from initial interactions on social media. Social media is a great way to expand your network and meet people you would never have met otherwise. Plus by interchanging information, you avoid the chance of others getting an impression that you’re only networking for self-gain.
Never following up You’ve been focused on building your network but haven’t followed up with any of your new contacts, it is easy for people to forget you — or worse, you may give the impression you are only networking for personal gain. It’s up to you to stay in touch. Especially, when someone offers to introduce you or refers you to another contact, always follow-up with them to say thanks. Inform them of what happened and express appreciation for their help no matter the turn out. An individual who is gracious will be remembered and there will be much more willingness to help again in the future.
Have a reason to connect Do your homework. When trying to build a new contact don’t go into it blindly. It will look like you’re just trying to randomly add contacts. Learn everything you can about the new contact before reaching out or meeting. Either circle back and ask the person who referred you for more information or review their LinkedIn profile and try a Google search. Prepare some questions or topics to delve further into. That little extra effort can go a long ways; by allowing your networking contact the opportunity to share what interests him or her most. Besides, people love to talk about themselves.
Taking without giving When you don’t treat networking like a mutual exchange of information, it may result in a lot of frustrating dead ends. Networking isn’t all about you. Listen for opportunities to offer help or introduce your new connection to someone you know. When you give the impression that you are only networking to get something — a job, an investor or a new client — people see right through your shallow efforts and that leaves a negative impression.