3 Things Keeping You From Effectively Networking

Do you ever feel like your networking efforts are a waste of time?


The relationships you’re “developing” just aren’t very valuable to you, and in turn, you really aren’t helping anybody in your network. I used to think that about networking. I’d go to all these events, trade business cards and general chitchat, and then go home. I’d then wait, thinking job opportunities would roll in because of my wit and friendliness. It never happened. For some people, networking becomes another activity where they are just spinning the hamster wheel. These people associate activity with productivity, when in reality, the results are not very effective. If you feel like you’re stuck in this cycle, it can really suck the wind out of your efforts. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Like any other professional skill, you should be evaluating what you’re doing and see what you can do to improve. Below are a few common mistakes that I found was sabotaging effective networking.


You're "connecting", but not networking


If you’re blindly sending new contact requests to profiles on LinkedIn — you’re not doing anything better than just surfing Facebook. Networking is based on relationships. While you can try to rack up connections with blind requests — and people WILL accept your request for no reason — I would consider this a waste. If you’re going to connect with someone, always include a quick personal note about why you want to connect. It’s not just courteous, but purposeful. You’re respecting the other person’s time and efforts and providing a reason to start a relationship with you. It’s also a good screening tactic. People who truly want to be helpful will respond. Those that just want to add to their “friends list” will step aside when they realize that a little more work is involved. And if someone you do not know reaches out to you for a connection, don’t just blindly accept either. What’s the point if you know nothing about them? Instead, accept their request, but also send back a response with, “Thank you. Glad we could connect. Would love to know how you came to reach out to me and how I could help you?” Cull those that don’t respond. You’re demonstrating that you’re network is important to you, that you are someone who would be of value to their network, and you’ve got another chance to talk. Otherwise, they’re just another number on your list.


You stay in your comfort zone


If you’re always going to the same type of events or meeting up with the same people you always do, then you are limiting the growth of your network. You might be adding numbers, but you’re not improving the quality. It’s easy to reach out to another person in your industry or in a similar position. And don’t get me wrong — hanging out with your peer group is great. You’ve got people who understand you and with whom you can commiserate. But don’t get stuck doing just this. Remember, you’re looking to develop yourself, and if you’re not pushing past your comfort zone, then you’re not doing yourself any favors. Bring yourself to contact someone outside your industry or way above whom you would assume would have any interest in talking to you. Reach out to those you could help, as well. Diversification is what will lead to quality for you, and your network. Like any other developmental activity, you will get rejected, and you won’t connect with everyone. That’s part of networking, too. 


You never close


You meet a bunch of people, and then their business cards end up gathering dust in a faraway corner of your drawer. It’s great that you’ve put in the effort to expand your network. You’ve met somebody new and you’ve connected and you recognize opportunities where you could help each other out. Don’t let the relationship die on the vine. Continue to reach out. Keep in mind the ways that you can help the people in your network and remember to send opportunities their way. Send an article you saw that reminds you of them, or introduce them to new people that they would enjoy connecting with. Making new friends is great. But if you have a request or would like to pursue some opportunities further, you have to ask. Too often, people will have a  great conversation, and think that that is enough to leave things off. Have you ever wondered, “What’s next?”. Well they are, too! Take the lead and nudge the relationship in the right direction. Always have an avenue to connect again. Next time you find yourself connecting with someone new to your network, leave with some sort of action item:

 

—“Hey Bill, would love to continue our discussions. Would you mind if I called you in a month to catch up and see if those opportunities that you were talking about come up?”

— “Pleasure talking with you, Jane. I’ll e-mail you in a month. I want to hear about how that event turns out. I might have some leads for you then.”

—“Really interesting stuff. I’ve been wanting to see what opportunities are out there. Mind if I reach out to you in a week to see what you find out?”

 

You know that saying where 90% of success is just showing up? Well in networking, showing up means being willing to take the next step. So go and get it. 

 

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For months, networking wasn’t doing anything for me, or anyone else. I didn’t understand that I was the one holding it back. Too many people fail to reassess what their efforts are doing for them and to adjust as necessary. Take a moment to see if you’re truly developing your network or sabotaging it from ever growing. 



Write a comment

Comments: 2
  • #1

    Jim Kara (Wednesday, 15 October 2014 01:08)

    I did not grow up networking. I have the ability to start a conversation anytime with anyone at any place or time. I have lost count of all the times I have mentioned to a total stranger that I have been without a job for 2 plus years with nothing new on the horizon. I'm starting to tell people that I have a better chance of winning the lottery than finding another job. I don't even know what to look for any more and people tell me don't give up - Why?

  • #2

    successvets (Wednesday, 15 October 2014 06:35)

    Jim,

    Thanks for commenting. I had a few thoughts that I hope will help you out.

    It's great that you're open to networking at any time and place. But you're looking for something specific -- a job -- so I was wandering what you're strategy has been? If it's just to tell everyone that you meet that that is what you want, it might be like winning the lottery because you just can't predict if you're going to get lucky and meet someone who is both willing to help and has the connections you need. Have you tried targeting groups through LinkedIn or attending conferences and meet-ups where the type of employers or people working in your industry of interest congregate?

    Once you've got your strategy down, how's your communication? I don't mean just what you say, but how you come across and just as important, your timing. Let's break down each. I'm sure it's been tough, but if you come across as desperate or beaten down to people that you have just met, they are not as likely to help you. Think of it this way -- how often does the desperate guy get the girl? That's not the movie I'd watch. It's always when the guy comes across as confident and self assured in his abilities that he wins the girl of his dreams. Now, you might be saying the right things, but if your body language is off or you hint that you're really in dire need, people might be put off. It's unfortunate, because they might miss how great of a hire you could be, but that's just human nature.

    When I talk about timing, I mean at what point do you bring up that you're looking for a job? How long have you listened to the other person, built rapport, and figured out what they are looking for? Because most people aren't interested in you. They are interested in themselves. They've got their own problems. You are in a perfect position to help. Because you're open to meeting people, you should be listening to a lot of their problems. Now you won't be able to solve everyone's problems, but here and there, you'll be able to help -- whether it's connecting them to someone else you know, providing feedback to them, or taking that extra step that they might not be expecting. Give what you can. If you're doing it right, you'll be listening about 80% of the time and talking only 20%. You might wondering how this helps you. Well I want to tell you that people that add value to other people's lives are always in high demand. You will find someone who will want to help you in turn. You might not even have to tell them that you're looking for a job. Just through the conversation, they'll understand that you're capable person, someone whom they might want to have in their network.

    You shouldn't give up, and not for the reason that people are telling you. Generally, it's just a platitude. I don't believe in karma. What I said before about helping out other people first -- it's not because good things will happen to you just because you do good things. It's because you demonstrate an ability to solve problems, and that has value to people -- something they can trade on, whether it is to hire you themselves or to introduce you to someone who can get you in the door. You need to not give up because your thinking effects your behavior effects your actions. Believe in yourself so that you communicate it to others in your body language and speech. It starts there, not with someone else.

    These are just off the top of my head. It would help to know more about what you've been trying, what your background is, and what feedback you have received from people on why your experience and background hasn't got you hired. Hit me up over e-mail, successvets@gmail.com, if you want to discuss more.

    Best,
    Byron