Author: Michael Scaletti
We have all heard about the importance of networking. We know it's key to our professional success. No matter how talented you are, if your product, message, or resume doesn't reach the right people, you won't get where you want to go. To have a truly successful career, you're going to need a strong personal and professional network.
While we all know, in theory, that networking is a necessary job skill, there are some common networking mistakes that a lot of us still make. Networking takes time, effort, and an understanding of how meaningful connections are made. Without that understanding, it is likely that you will make one of the following mistakes.
TRYING TOO HARD
When you're networking, it is important to remember that that you are attempting to establish a long term relationship with someone that is mutually beneficial. Ideally you can both then leverage that relationship for opportunities and advice. While forming a relationship necessarily requires some self-promotion, don't over do it. Nobody likes the person who can't stop talking about themselves and their interests, and constantly bringing up your own achievements can be seen as bragging or trying too hard. Instead, work to engage the other person, to determine their interests, and then to make a connection from any common interests you may have.
There are people who only attempt to network with those they think can help their careers, ignoring anyone else. That is the exact wrong approach to take. Not only does it make you look selfish and self-serving, which makes you a less appealing networking target, it also cuts you off from connections that could end up being valuable down the road. Remember that everyone's career is a journey, and while the person you're connecting with now might not have significant professional clout, they may some day, and you'll be left wishing you'd stayed in touch.
BEING A CLOSED BOOK
Nobody is asking you to overshare or talk about your private thoughts and experiences, but when network it is important for the parties involved to get to know one another. That means being willing to answer questions about yourself and share information about yourself that might interest the other person. If you remain closed off entirely you will struggle to relate and communicate, and without doing those, forming a meaningful connection will be impossible.
FAILING TO RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Whether we like it or not, first impressions are important when it comes to your job search. This is especially true when networking, as a bad first impression can not only sour the individual you are attempting to network with, but potentially anyone else they are connected to. As such, it is vital to be aware of the impression you are making. Make sure that your attire is appropriate for the function you are attending, and that you are well groomed. In addition, avoid overindulging in food and drink, especially if alcohol is on offer. The key is simply being aware of the image you are presenting and how it might be perceived by your potential connections.