Recently I was asked to lead a networking exercise at an Alumni event so that attendees from different graduating classes could meet new people. As a big advocate of the power of networking, I happily accepted. While getting lunch on the day of the event, I observed a group of attendees look at the afternoon agenda and say, “I’m going to skip the networking activity – that’s not why I’m here.”
Having heard similar sentiments before, I wasn’t too surprised. However, I found myself wondering, “Then why ARE you here?”
As an introvert and a busy professional, networking isn’t the most natural activity on my weekly schedule, but having experienced the incredible benefits, I’m confident it’s completely worth it. If you’re among the doubters (or are too busy, too tired, too shy, or too something else), then it’s no wonder you’re a skeptic because when you DO make networking a priority, you likely don’t reap the benefits that you want.
If you’ve written off networking as a waste of time, it may be just your approach that needs tweaking. Here are a few of the most common networking errors that may be getting in your way.
- The “one and done” approach. If you only network when you need a job and expect instant results, you’ll likely be disappointed. Successful networking is a two-way street that takes mutual trust and respect, which is built up over time and repeated interactions. Avoid using contacts merely as “stepping stones” and instead strive to create lasting relationships.
- The “here’s my problem, you solve it” approach. When networking, have you ever asked a question like, “What do YOU think I should do?” If so, then you’re making the contact do the work for you. This is neither a question they should answer, nor are qualified to answer. Come to the networking meeting prepared. Do your research (including deep introspection) and ask targeted questions to get helpful insights and tips. If you don’t invest, why should your network?
- The “me, me and more me” approach. Diving straight into asking for a job, spewing every skill you have onto your unsuspecting contact, or bringing a resume to an informational meeting are not great networking strategies. Be curious and conversational. Networking is a long-term strategy about planting seeds. Don’t focus on the job, but rather focus on getting to the next meeting (e.g., building a relationship vs. “one and done”).
Effective networking is not a mystery, but it does take time and effort. Those willing to make it a priority reap incredible benefits (which others often refer to as “luck”). Take a moment to reflect on what opportunities you might have missed and make it a point not to pass those up in the future. It only takes one connection to change everything.