One of the most important aspects of job searching or finding customers and clients is networking. It significantly increases your chances of reaching your professional goals (and helps you create new ones). Networking is defined as “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.” The keyword here is exchange. It’s a two-way street. Anyone who is going to hire you is going to want something valuable in return. Networking is the first impression you can make that can result in a potentially fruitful mutual relationship. Therefore, below are 6 mistakes that can risk that potential and you should be sure to avoid.
1. Don’t prepare.
As part of your job search strategy, preparing a plan for networking is essential. There are a number of points to keep in mind, such as, for online networking, which platforms you’re going to utilize the most. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter may appeal to some industries more than others. Once you decide where you want to focus your energy, you have to create industry-appropriate profiles as part of your personal presence. Nowadays, you can safely assume that these profiles are basically extensions of your resume.
When planning for in-person networking, again, research what events are being offered and what aligns most with your industry and professional goals. Then, ensure that, you have materials to hand out. On some occasions, such as job fairs and trade shows, having a resume, fliers and brochures, and/or samples on hand may also be appropriate.
In either case, make sure to also prepare a 1-2 minute introduction of yourself and your professional history and aspirations. This is called your elevator pitch.
2. Don’t reach out to enough people.
This can be a big one for introverts. If you tend to be on the more reserved side, you may need to put in an extra effort to initiate conversations. However, the point of networking is exactly that: to talk to people. Ideally, you should meet and converse with at least 2-3 people at an event.
When it comes to online networking, a great way to get out there is by interacting with posts on social media groups. If there is a particularly interesting conversation or person, you can then take it to private messaging or email.
3. Don’t follow up.
When you do meet someone, in-person or online, make sure to follow up and keep in touch with them. It’s easy to forget someone you met only once, and vice versa. After the initial meeting, make sure to send a thank you, or a “it was great chatting with you” message. In your message, try to also follow up on a particular point that came up in your conversation. For example, if you happened to tell the other person about a course, book, or resource, then in your message, send them a link to the resource. Every relationship is give-and-take. Do your part by giving something of value.
4. Don’t demonstrate common courtesy/good manners.
When talking to anyone, especially someone in a professional setting, be friendly and professional. Listen, don’t interrupt. Don’t talk too much. Don’t boast. Ask questions. If you’re eating together, use good table manners. Read the other person’s body language and nonverbal cues, and proceed in your conversation accordingly. Don’t get too personal. These are some of the basics.
5. Don’t use a mixed approach (online and in-person interactions).
In today’s world, having an online presence is as important as being a natural talker in-person. If you’re more of the in-person type, make sure you are up to date on the popular social media platforms and have a presence on the most relevant ones (see point 1 above). If you’re more tech-savvy, but the above mentioned introvert, make sure you also take advantage of local events and networking opportunities. Both aspects are important and can be deal breakers in your overall job search strategy.
6. Don’t strike a balance between “pitching” and being “natural”.
Certainly, everyone at a networking event is there to network and build their career or business relationships. However, you don’t want to be the overbearing or desperate salesperson in the room. You also don’t want to be so comfortable that you get into the “too friendly” realm. Find common interests and build a conversation from there, while keeping a polite and professional demeanor.
Networking is not only fun and exciting as you get a chance to explore opportunities you may not be able to otherwise, but it’s also instrumental to a successful job search. Therefore, it can be stressful as well. Make sure you are at ease, confident, and are able to show your best by being prepared. Use the above six don’ts to guide you in what to do instead and get to where you want go.