Networking is critical for career growth and job search. You have probably heard the call to ‘network, network, network’ as the easiest way to get that job or move up the corporate ladder. Networking provides a chance for mentorship, job referrals and building lasting professional relationships. However, networking is not easy and sometimes you might make mistakes that make the interaction awkward and unfruitful. Below are some of these mistakes to avoid;
Neglecting Face-To-Face Contact
Everything is so easy online. On the web, the whole world is practically right in front of you by the click of a button, right? You feel like you can reach out to anyone and present your case. Well, while that might be the case most of the time, networking requires physical contact. It involves connecting on deeper levels other than just a chat online. You can learn a lot about someone over a cup of coffee and the conversation flows better as you can read their body language and decide if this is someone you would like in your network.
How to Fix This
Take advantage of meetups in your industry where people in your profession gather to discuss trends and share knowledge. Here you will meet who have more experience than you do and who can offer mentorship and guidance on best practice.
Expecting a Job from Each Interaction
Another mistake most networking newbies make is thinking networking is is a fertile job opportunities forum. That they will go in for a session, speak with three people and get five job offers by the end of the day. If this is your thinking, you are putting the cart in front of the horse. A job opportunity is a result of the relationships you create not the other way round. Also, it is not a guarantee that each interaction will give you a job. Some are meant to challenge you, teach you, help you grow or learn from you as well.
How to Fix This
Stop viewing networking opportunities as job creators, but as interaction opportunities to help you grow your skill, and to share knowledge. You will find that the more you interact with people, the better you become and the more they know your expertise. These interactions will keep you in people’s mind and when they hear of opportunities you will see them calling you and offering reference.
Talking About Yourself Too Much
You are great at what you do. Probably in your mind, you are in the top 10 best performers in your industry. You are ambitious and have some noteworthy achievements under your belt you feel everyone in the networking event should hear. So what do you do? You dominate conversations with what you have done and achieved, leaving people no space to breathe or say anything. At the end of the session, you have spoken yourself dry and learnt very little. You also notice people are visibly avoiding you.
How To Fix This
Anyone who always thinks they are the absolute best is usually quickly reminded that they are not the custodians of genius. The greatest mistake you can make is going to an industry networking session full of yourself, because you might be quickly humbled. There is always room for learning. Networking sessions are learning opportunities for you. You have the opportunity to meet people who share their experience as you share yours. You will soon notice that you have longer conversations with people you click with because you had a discussion, not a monologue. Numbers will be exchanged and follow-ups made.
Professionalism has to do with how you package yourself. Your personal brand. How do you talk to people? Are you courteous? Do you dress appropriately? Do you apply basic etiquette in your interactions? Networking involves interacting with people who have the potential to steer your career in the right direction. There are unspoken rules for such interactions that need to be observed by all involved to ensure smooth, successful interactions.
How to Fix This
Unprofessionalism is usually a combination of several small things like how you talk, how you dress, your body language or how you introduce yourself. Identify the little aspects of your interactions that may rub off as unprofessional and begin correcting them. Ask your colleagues and friends to help you identify the unconscious behaviors that could be off-putting and make a conscious effort to improve.
Not Following Up
Failing to follow up is probably the biggest turn off in professional and even personal interactions. You meet someone at an event, you exchange contacts and plan to meet and discuss a topic further. Now because you see them interacting a lot with everyone else in the room you decide that maybe what you have agreed on is not that important. You forget about it and fail to follow up.
How to Fix This
Take every networking opportunity seriously and follow up with anyone who shows interest in serious connection. You never know the potential of any interaction. Show appreciation to people who show interest in what you do and offer advice or help. Mentors like dealing with people who show initiative and appreciation. Those two qualities will take you far.