There’s something about the word networking that feels kind of icky, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Networking can feel really comfortable, natural even, when done well — even if you’re an introvert. But, there are some common networking mistakes you should be careful to avoid.
Mistake #1 – Missing the Obvious
We sometimes neglect to recognize that some of our most valuable resources are right in front of us. This is probably because we tend to think of networking as more of a formal process than we should. Your professional network isn’t just made up of your LinkedIn contacts. It’s also the people you work with every day, your friends from college, and even your family members. So, don’t forget to include those people when you think about your network. They could turn out to be very important toward supporting your professional growth even if you knew them first on a personal level.
Mistake #2 – Talking About Yourself Too Much
People love to talk about themselves. And, sharing your background and experience (as well as your goals for the future) is an important part of networking. Just remember, it’s not the only thing that matters. Don’t forget that you should ask questions and listen, too. Connecting in this mutual and reciprocal way demonstrates that you’re genuinely interested in the other person and in learning from them. This kind of approach not only helps you grow your network, it also allows you to maximize the value of the contacts you already have.
Mistake #3 – Leaning Too Heavily on Online Resources
Professional networking websites are great, but you shouldn’t expect them to do all of the work for you. It’s essential that you network IRL, too. Take advantage of opportunities to meet new people in your field, attend conferences, etc. Social media is a great tool, but it still can’t replace the power of face-to-face connections.
Mistake #4 – Burning Bridges
A good networker knows that the future is long. Therefore, it never makes sense to burn a bridge with anyone. You never know when an old connection might come in handy. You might also run into them again someday in a different context, whether you’d like to or not. So, always operate with care and consideration of this fact, during all your professional interactions.
Mistake #5 – Neglecting to Follow Up
If you’ve recently made a new connection, or even just had a great conversation with someone who’s been in your network for years, taking the time to do some follow up could really pay off. Send along an email, or a thank-you card. Taking the next step helps to solidify the connection and continue to develop the relationship.
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