Networking: “The action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.” Seems simple, right? Yet, the act of networking is an art that requires significant practice and skill. Whether you are a social butterfly or you cringe at the thought of interacting with people, networking is crucial for any individual regardless of profession or experience.
Although there are numerous how-to guides on networking, individuals most often will experiment with what works best for them. Developing your signature networking style is very personal; however, there are some faux pas to always avoid.
Perhaps the most common mistake people naively make is dismissing their current network. You already have an existing network no matter what field you are in, no matter your position or experience level. Your university alumni, family members, and past co-workers all form your network. It’s very important to recognize already existing connections and try to form deeper relationships with these people. Reach out and reignite communication even if you have not spoken to them in months or years. Although it is important to expand your network it is equally important to maintain current contacts.
The Selfish Networker
No one likes a selfish person, period. It is very apparent when a person is networking to only benefit themselves. Only talking about yourself or what your needs are leads people to believe that you are selfish, and therefore they are less likely to help further your career or introduce to you to other valuable contacts. Instead of trying to just make new contacts, make connections with purpose. For example, instead of selling yourself to as many people as possible, take an interest in their professional life and listen to their knowledge or experience. Not only will this be well received by others, it gives you a way to connect in a truly enriching way.
In my opinion, the classic “spammer” should win the award for the worst networker. We all have that one (at least) irritating person who constantly fills our email inbox and social media with useless information. Don’t be THAT person! Not only is this tacky, it makes people want to avoid you instead of engaging in conversation. Simply put, don’t harass people with countless business cards and constant messages. Instead, always make a strong first impression and stay in contact without overwhelming the individual. By taking this approach you will build a more genuine relationship.
The Vanishing Networker
In contrast to “the spammer”, it is extremely important to not vanish after your initial interaction. Don’t waste the time and work that you have put into to meeting someone by suddenly vanishing and not staying in contact with them. It is important to follow up with new contacts within 48 hours of meeting them. This shows that you value their time and you look forward to being in contact in the future.
I cannot stress enough the overall importance of networking. It is crucial that you take advantage of every opportunity to meet new people since you never know what doors they can open. Although there is no formula for networking, you should remember to be authentic, stay calm and avoid these common mistakes.
“The way of the world is meeting people through other people.” – Robert Kerrigan