16 August 2013
Have you ever ventured into a professional relationship only to find it falling flat shortly after? The prospect of adding to your network is exciting, but no matter how well-intentioned you are, you could very well be making mistakes that are fatal to a thriving professional affiliation. When we wrote about The Art of Tactful Networking, we included some of these mistakes in our do’s and don’ts. Here are five more things you might be doing to weaken your network that should be changed right away. You only communicate when you need something. This should be an implicit “don’t” when you hear the word “relationship”—after all, it’s a two-way street. No professional contact will want to help you if you only contact them when you need something. To keep your ties strong and up to date, communicate on a somewhat regular basis. A great way to keep in touch is to forward them an interesting article that they might find interesting and spark a conversation about that topic. You’re self-centered. Likewise, you should do what you can to help your contact. Even if your contact is of higher standing than you or is in a mentoring position, there could be something you can offer. Just asking if they could use your help with something will show that you’re invested and not just expecting their help. You rely only on email and impersonal contact. Yes, the majority of business communication is now done online. Yes, it’s much faster to shoot off an email than to personally call someone or arrange a lunch date. But if you rely only on the internet, your relationships with your contacts could soon fizzle out. It’s important to make time to speak with those in your network in a variety of ways— email, chat on the phone, meet up in person–but it’s all too easy for someone to open your email, save it for later, and forget to respond because he or she is busy. Avoid that by taking a more personal approach. You’re overwhelming. While those in your network are aware of the fact that you can help each other throughout your careers, they will quickly become overwhelmed from your requests if you expect too much of them. Asking for repeated favors or sending too many emails can be off-putting, especially for busy professionals. Try to be respectful of your connections’ time and he or she should do the same. You network only when looking for opportunities. It’s easy to tell whether someone is genuinely interested in the give-and-take of a professional relationship or if they’re only looking for opportunities, and more often than not, a connection like this won’t last. Your network should incorporate a wide variety of people, but it’s the quality of your connections that count, not the quantity. This is why it’s considered in poor taste to send impersonal LinkedIn connection requests to those you’ve never met or worked with. If you’re still having a hard time connecting with others in your field, you might need to reconsider your personal brand and whether or not it’s working for you. Avoiding the mistakes mentioned above is a great way to maintain your connections, but you still need to have a plan and know what you want to be known for. So, another don’t: don’t get lost in anonymity. Build your own personal brand, advertise it, and practice the art of tactful networking to maintain the network it attracts!