Whether you’re looking for it or not, you’ve probably been encouraged to network, network, network! more times than you can count, all those conferences and events you’re attending leading to new connections or opportunities? No, you’re not the only one. Many networking newbies have tendencies that actually inhibit real relationships with new contacts. The good news: it’s not hard to fix. Here’s what you might not even realize you’re doing wrong – and what to do about it.
Mistake 1 – Talking about yourself – All the time
You’re talented! Eager! Ambitious! You have a lot of ideas to share! you want to make sure every person you meet at the event knows who you are and what you do!
We get it. Yes, sharing your story with new contacts is important, but sharing your story is overkill. Nothing can set a person off more than an aspiring professional who takes no interest in anything besides her own ambitions.
The Fix: Take Some Interest
Stop highlighting your latest accomplishments and start listening instead. find people with industries or careers of interest to you, and ask them questions: how did they get their start? What do they love about their jobs, and what they wish they could change? By taking an interest in your contact, you will make her feel valued -and hopefully interested in continuing the relationship. And likely you will gain some new insights, too.
Mistake 2 – Not Saying Thanks
You attend a large event last week and grabbed coffee with one of your new professional contacts afterward. And then – the week got busy and you didn’t get around to saying thank you. She’ll understand, right? Maybe. But if you don’t show gratitude, even in the smallest (or largest) event, you risk leaving a negative impression – probably not the desired outcome of your meeting.
The Fix: Take a page from the Nike book – Just Do It
Whether you pack note cards in your purse for post-meeting scribbles, set yourself a reminder on your phone to send a quick note, or just insert a “Thank you for meeting with me” at a final handshake, you must say thank you. Not only will it solidify your reputation as a courteous individual, but it won’t leave your contact with a bad taste in their mouths.
Mistake 3 – Forgetting to Follow Up
You meet someone over a networking happy hour and tell her you will send over your portfolio. But as the night goes on, she has a few drinks and meets a few dozen more people, you’re sure she’s forgotten all about you, so you decide it’s not even worth emailing her the next day.
The Fix: Stay Accountable
If you told a networking contact that you would do something, do it. Even if you aren’t sure she remembers you, you can bet she will be grateful that you took the time out to do what you discussed. If you are worried about forgetting, keep a pen near your business card holder to quickly scribble out what follow-up actions you have for the contact, review your cards after the event.
Above all, keep in mind networking isn’t about short-term gain, but about learning, growing and forming connections. Now, we know where we went wrong, let’s fix it and build these relationships.