By now, we all know that spending time building a professional network is extremely important. It can be the key to finding a new job and growing in your career. For most people, the easiest way to create a strong network is to connect with other professionals on sites like Nexxt and LinkedIn.
As you begin networking, you'll find that there are many different ways to contact people you'd like to get to know. Since the communication happens online, there is often a disconnect between how you would communicate face to face and how you express yourself in a text-based format. This fundamental difference can lead to making small mistakes that can hinder your success. Here are four of the biggest networking mistakes and how to avoid them:
- Networking in fits and spurts. Once you begin networking, you have to make a commitment to keep at it. If you only network for a couple of weeks and then stop for a month, you aren't going to make much progress. In order to get to know others and establish yourself as part of the community, you'll have to communicate on a regular basis. To do this, set aside a certain amount of time each week specifically for networking. If you start out strong and then leave, others will have a hard time taking you seriously. It's better to start slow and continue building.
- Not doing your research before you post. Before you share a news story or repeat something you heard someone else say, be sure to check your facts. It only takes a few moments and it can save you a great deal of embarrassment. For example, I can't tell you how many people have shared news articles from a parody site like “The Onion” as if they were factual. The fake headlines are specifically designed to be provocative and look like a legitimate news story, which is what makes it funny. The writers are so good that many people take them seriously and then feel silly once they discover that the source is a humor website. So, check the source and find out if it's true before you share.
- Focusing only on your needs. No one likes a friend who is only focused on themselves. This is especially true with networking. You can't just look for people to help you and not offer anything in return. Instead, start by listening and looking for ways that you can use your contacts to help other people who are also trying to build their careers. No matter where you are in your career, there's going to be someone who is just starting out or who could benefit from your help. Friendships are based on mutual concern and support and Internet-based friendships are no different.
- Being rude. There is no excuse for being rude on the Internet. For some reason, many people change into the worst versions of themselves when they have a keyboard in front of them. I'm not sure why that is, but it's sort of like how people change when they are behind the wheel of a car. Someone who is typically polite and thoughtful can change into an aggressive, verbally abusive jerk once someone cuts them off in traffic. They scream things that wouldn't be appropriate in any other situation. If they were in a grocery store and someone was in their way, they wouldn't yell at them and say something like “I hope you die a gruesome death, you jerk! Who let you even come to this store. I wish your children were dismembered in front of you!” However, in a car, this behavior seems acceptable. Online, some people behave the same way they do when they are driving and it's a shame. Insulting others, talking bad about people and just being rude in general is a good way to alienate your friends and make yourself look like a jerk. When you're networking, avoid being negative and expressing controversial views or making threatening comments about people you don't agree with. Be professional in everything you do.
Networking isn't hard, but it does take a commitment of time and focus to do it properly. Remember that you are a professional and treat others that way as well. Good luck and have fun networking.
What other mistakes do you think many people make? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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