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Do You Also Make These 3 Networking Mistakes?

Networking is a valuable professional activity that opens up a whole new world of information and business opportunities. When it is done right, it can enhance significantly our career. Despite this well-known fact, we often sabotage our best efforts by committing the following networking faux-pas.

1. Forgetting the networking purpose

Do you often find yourself wandering awkwardly around the halls of an exhibition not knowing who to address first and what to say? We have all been there. If you make the decision to spend your valuable time in a networking event, you may as well do it properly. Try to arrive early so you can engage one-on-one with a few attendees before all of the noise and bustle sets in. You will also have the luxury of making the first impression in people’s minds before they are drowning in business cards. An effective strategy is to do some research about your key targets before arriving to the venue. By showing your familiarity with their work, you will grab their attention, increasing the chances of a fruitful outcome. Although it is counter-intuitive, resist the temptation of a meaningless chit chat. Instead, structure your speech according to your networking goals, without of course being dry. It is vitally important to find the right balance between friendly and professional.

2. Failing to understand the power dynamics

A large number of people in networking events are at a similar career level with you and share the same mentality. After your first meeting, the networking rules are pretty straight-forward: You should follow-up promptly, connect with them on LinkedIn and offer to buy them coffee or lunch. Where it goes wrong is when we try to connect with someone with a higher status and fail to grasp the power dynamics. It would be nice if our professional role models would like to hang out with us “just because” but that is unlikely. Top-notch professionals have limited time to assess carefully the large volumes of requests they receive. As Dorie Clark suggests in her article at HBR, to inspire these people you should state clearly and quickly your value proposition emphasising how you can help them.

3. Not following-up

One of the most unacceptable yet banal networking mistakes is trading greedily business cards either not to follow-up promptly or not to follow up at all. Whether this behaviour results from laziness, busy schedule or a “they will contact me first” attitude, it cancels out your networking effort. In the end of your initial meeting with someone, ask them the best way to stay in touch, and then follow-up within 48 hours through the suggested channel. If possible, connect with your new contacts on more than one social platform to facilitate future interaction and the exchange of ideas.

Your messages should be personalised referencing something you discussed at your first meeting. Not only your contacts will get impressed by the details you remember, but you will also come across as someone who listens rather than aggressively self-promoting.