As career and job search advisers, we have done our fair share of networking over the years. From the good, the bad, and the ugly, we’ve definitely seen it all, and these experiences have shown us that few people find networking to be an easy task.
However, in today’s interconnected world, knowing how to network tactfully is essential to long term professional success. Whether searching for a new job or venturing into a new business deal, the way you communicate with your connections is key. Make any of these faux pas, and you risk missing out on the benefits of a strong professional network:
You only reach out when you need something:
Remember, every relationship is a two-way street and no professional wants to help someone who only contacts them for their own benefit. Show you are legitimately invested in your key relationships by communicating with your contacts on a regular basis. A couple of great ways to keep in touch are to forward them an article that they might find interesting, set up informal meetings over coffee to check in, or attend professional association events together. On that note, it’s important to ensure your contacts know that they can always turn to you should they ever need advice or a professional favor.
You rely on email and impersonal contact:
In this digital world, it can be easy to fall back on email or sites such as LinkedIn to expand and strengthen your network. While these are very useful tools, they should only be a piece of your overall networking strategy. If you rely only on the internet, your unique personality traits can get lost in translation – leading your relationships to fizzle out. Avoid that by taking a more personal approach.
You expect them to do most of the legwork:
If you are contacting someone for industry advice or a lead on a job opening, chances are they are in a position you admire and therefore have limited time to begin with. Respect this by being direct, though polite, about what it is you are looking for. Rather than expecting them to lead the conversation, be prepared with questions and provide them with your resume or any other relevant documents that can make your meeting or conversation go more smoothly. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to help.
You don’t follow up properly:
When it comes to following up, there is a fine line between being too persistent and lacking initiative. On one hand, your contacts can become quickly overwhelmed from your requests if you expect too much of them. It can be especially off-putting if you ask for repeated favors or send too many emails. However, should you meet a new connection at an event or receive a response from a contact, be sure to follow through. Send a quick message thanking them for their time with a promise to keep in touch.