Networking can be invaluable in the business world, since it provides opportunities to tap into the knowledge, skills and connections of people outside of your immediate professional circles. Done right, networking has the potential to progress your career. Done wrong and you'll be forgettable, at best.
Avoid these common mistakes to raise your game and make the most of your networking efforts.
- Quantity over quality. Wherever you network, don’t be tempted to shove your business card into as many hands as possible. The quality of the connections you make is far more important than the quantity. Bouncing from person to person can make you look like a networking newbie (or worse, a little desperate), so spend time on the people you find interesting with the aim of building a genuine connection. They’re far more likely to remember you than the person who made a quick introduction, doled out a card and hopped off to the next disengaged prospect.
The quality of the connections you make is far more important than the quantity
- Neglecting the personal. You’re not only your job, and neither are your networking connections. Make yourself memorable and build a more meaningful rapport by taking an interest in the person behind the role. Only ‘talking shop’ can be boring and repetitive, so ask them about their life outside of the office, without getting too personal. “What are your interests outside of work?” can be a great conversation starter. “Are you married?” might send the wrong message.
- Great expectations. You may be excited to make use of your connections, but expecting too much, too quickly, is a rookie mistake. Remember, your connections are busy and have commitments, and are unlikely to do favours for someone they’ve just met. Don’t be pushy. If you’d like advice or an introduction, spend some time getting to know the person, even by touching base via email, and offer your help first.
- Follow through. Whatever you do, avoid making promises you can’t keep. To really make the most of your networking efforts, it’s crucial you always keep up your end of the bargain and follow through on what you say you’ll do because word will sure get around if you don’t. Networking is about reciprocal professional relationships, so give as much as you expect in return, and follow through in a timely manner.
- Going silent. Whether your efforts are focused on online platforms or in the real world, there’s little point building a solid network of contacts if you never bother to engage them. Don’t be forgotten. Keep yourself in mind by consistently reaching out to your connections, and keeping the conversation going. You could send a one-on-one email communication with useful information, or you could arrange an informal gathering at a local restaurant to stay in the loop and help your connections expand their own network. Stay in the game, offer something of value, and remember that networking is an on-going process.