5 dire networking mistakes and how to avoid them (#4 is a career killer)
We all know the drill. The world is changing, there’s no such thing as guaranteed promotion, not everyone can rely on a mentor and no job is forever. We all have to take responsibility for building our careers and making connections with those we need to know. But whether its cringe-worthy introductions at breakfast meetings, being thrown together with international colleagues at a once-a year meeting, or inviting your entire phone book to connect with you on LinkedIn, professional networking can seem a bit hit and miss. So we asked our recruitment experts to share their tips on effective networking across different industries and the career killers you should avoid at all costs.
Underestimating your network
Don’t underestimate the good will in your network and the potential to unlock it just by getting back in touch with former colleagues, clients and managers – even your old school networks. I almost made this mistake when we started Marshall McAdam six years ago. I was confident I had built good relationships over 20 years in recruitment, but I was nervous about how active I had been within my network and that few people would actively go out of their way to support us. How wrong I was! We built Marshall McAdam, growing to a staff of twenty with an admirable client base with whom we have placed hundreds of people, as a result of reaching out to our networks with a clear purpose. It might sound a little clichéd but that’s why we chose the tagline – It’s the company we keep.
Getting the approach wrong
We are all busy, so making cold calls in the middle of the day is not always the best idea. This is where on-line networking comes into its own. Consider using LinkedIn to make the first touch point, a well-structured intro email (or ‘Inmail’ as it’s called on LinkedIn) asking for the opportunity to meet face to face. This gives the person time to do their research and determine if there is mutual benefit before they commit. Just be sure to tailor your message for each person. Everybody knows a bulk message when they see one and everybody ignores them.
Mistake # 3
Not understanding your target audience
The best networkers are well connected to their market through industry trends, market intelligence and they know how to engage their target audience. I have recently created a LinkedIn networking group (ICT Technology Sales Leaders AUS/NZ) to connect with industry leaders I haven’t spoken to before. In just two weeks 56 people from outside my existing network have requested to join my group. This gives me the opportunity to develop new relationships by sharing targeted market insights that will interest and/or help them. In return, I hope they will think of me next time they need to hire a sales professional or search for a new role themselves.
Stretching, massaging or reshaping the truth
Whatever you call it, don’t do it. Over-stating the relationship you have with a mutual contact in an effort to gain credibility is never a good idea. It will come back to bite you so honesty is the always the best policy. The solution? Leave behind any notion that networking is a selfish pursuit. Value yourself and realise others may well appreciate being a part of your network. After all most professionals are trying to grow their networks too. When you have genuine confidence in the potential for mutual benefit you can offer new contacts you won’t be tempted to stretch the truth.
Mistake # 5
Thinking it’s all about you
Listening is the single most important networking skill. Too many people fall into the trap of thinking that networking is all about them doing the talking and having interesting things to say, whereas in reality listening and then responding accordingly is far more important. Successful networkers understand the law of reciprocity – that you have to give something to get something, in a genuine way. The best networkers are connectors, bringing people together for mutual benefit and in turn building goodwill in their network. Trying to get immediate results or talking too much is fatal.