7 ways to doom your networking by Gail Golden
For a true extrovert, “Heaven is a room full of strangers.” For an introvert, that’s probably a good description of hell. But both sides know that networking is necessary for success, especially as more and more people are freelancing. Networking is the tool we use to find new business, develop peer relationships, discover resources, and stay up-to-date. Even if you’re employed full time, it’s important to actively network both inside and outside your company.
Networking is a sophisticated interpersonal skill. While some of us are natural networkers, almost all of us make occasional mistakes which undermine our success. I call those mistakes “notworking,” because they don’t produce the desired results. Here are some common forms of notworking:
Not being clear about your networking targets
My Aunt Eleanor was looking for a new housekeeper. Her friends kept recommending people to her, saying, “She’s not great at cleaning, but she’s really nice.” My aunt would respond, “I already know a lot of nice people. I need a good housekeeper!” When we’re networking, we need to think like Aunt Eleanor. What kinds of people am I trying to meet?
I’ve learned to ask myself, “When business leaders have problems my firm can help with, whom do they turn to?” Those confidants are who I want to meet. That way when the CEO asks them for advice, they’ll say, “I know a great resource for you, Gail Golden Consulting.”
Being a panhandler
Panhandlers ask for help without offering anything in return. Networking is about generosity and figuring out how you can be helpful to others. You can’t just talk about yourself, you must listen to the other person and offer something of value — an introduction, a relevant article, some apt advice, even just a kind ear. If you help others, they are much more likely to respond with helpful resources of their own.
Networking only in your comfort zone
I see this a lot with women who focus their networking efforts on women-only events. That’s fine if your networking targets are primarily women. But if you’re trying to reach influential senior business people, let’s face it, they’re mostly men. Learning how to push past discomfort to effectively strike up conversation in a room full of men gives women access to a new set of contacts. I know several male business leaders who target women’s networking events to successfully build a female clientele. The best networkers are comfortable interacting across any divide — whether it be generational, religious, economic, etc.
Lacking discipline and consistency
We’re all busy, and it’s easy to let networking fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Before you know it, months have gone by with zero networking. Not only have you missed out on opportunities, you’ve allowed yourself to get rusty. Networking’s like exercise — it isn’t going to happen unless you block out time to do it.
Failure to follow up
Even those of us who love meeting new people often have difficulty following up — recording people’s contact information, connecting with them, sending them the information you promised or making that introduction. If you fail to deliver on what you promised to do, you’ll leave a bad impression. And if you fail to maintain contact, they’ll probably forget about you.
Forgetting basic social skills
Everyone has stories about the person at networking events whom you try to avoid. Sometimes they’re making the mistakes above, but sometimes they’re just being clods. Showing off, raising controversial topics, and using inappropriate humor are examples of really bad networking.
Not having your business cards with you
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people come to networking events without their cards. It makes it much more difficult for others to follow up with you, and you look like an amateur. Always have professional cards on hand.
Networking is one of our most powerful business tools. When we use it with finesse and thoughtfulness, it accelerates our success and enables us to be more useful to others. On the other hand, “notworking” is generally a waste of your time and energy. If you’d like to learn more about how to ramp up your networking skills, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.