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.
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.