The following is part of a Networking Guide to help students and young professionals effectively navigate the networking and relationship building process to help develop and growth their careers. In this section, I’ll talk about some common networking pitfalls and how to avoid them.
For many of us, networking and building relationships is not an easy process. There is a lot of work required and it’s easy to make mistakes along the way (not a bad thing by any means) However, the rewards from networking and building relationships can be significant, so many choose to pursue it in light of the challenges. Below are some challenges and missteps that I see people make (and that I have made myself) along with some tips avoid them.
Not being accommodating – We all live busy lives, but if you’re going to ask someone to meet with you make sure you are showing some courtesy by being flexible around their schedule. You want to make it known that you value their time, so simply telling them you can only meet on weekends during these windows is probably not the best approach.
Wordy Requests – When you reach out to someone to introduce yourself you don’t need to tell the your life story, just the highlights and your purpose. I’ve gotten (and seen requests) that read more like novels. While I don’t want to put limits, I’ve heard anything from a max of 150-250 words in your initial request. Also, since we’re all so smart-phone driven consider that there’s a decent chance this person might be reading your request on their mobile device – novels don’t show up that well.
Going through the motions – If someone is trying to check the box to say that they did the networking thing I can tell right away. The questions they ask are routine or things you could easily find on a website or they quickly run out of things to ask you even though they made a big point of wanting to connect. As someone who appreciates networking, this is one of the more frustrating mistakes I see because in my view it’s showing a lack of respect for the other person’s time and is a missed opportunity.
Ghosting – Yes, ghosting is real, not just in the dating app world but in the networking world too! If you want to network and connect with someone make a commitment to seeing it through.
Asking immediately for connections, referrals, job postings, etc – Recently, a friend told me he had a networking conversation with a student from his Alma Mater who at the end of the conversation asked him “can you please forward me any names of people who you think might be able to help me in my search?” While my friend could appreciate his eagerness and desire to meet more people, its a pretty big request without significant thought or consideration given to my friend.
This one is tricky, because in many cases the whole point of networking with someone is to eventually have a shot at something (interview, job posting, etc) Like anything, there is always a method that works best, and you just want to make sure you find one that gets across your ask, demonstrates your gratitude, and is not too cumbersome. For example, in the case of my friend, a better approach would have been to say, “I am really interested in Finance at companies like Company A, and Company B. If I find anyone who meets those requirements on LinkedIn that you are connected to would you mind if I asked to see if you could help make an introduction?” First, this is much more specific. Second, it gives the other person a way out, because sometimes that individual cannot make an introduction, and last but not least, it puts the homework back on the requestor, which should make the ask much more manageable to handle.
I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and missteps, and if you’re serious about networking you will too, so try not to sweat this too hard. Furthermore, I am only one person, so others may think differently on this so if you have thoughts, comments or criticisms I would love to hear them