Mistakes You’re Probably Making While Networking That Need to Stop
“The advantage of these kinds of questions is that it moves away from defining a person by their job into finding out what a person actually cares about and what matters to them.”
The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ has become even truer today, in a world of too much information and global interconnectivity. After all, when everybody has so much data and so many people competing for their time, how else are you going to get your information and your deals in front of the people that matter?
And, though some people may see it as a dirty word, one of the best ways to get to know more people is still networking. Of course, for it to be effective and a good investment of your efforts, you do need to make sure you do it correctly. Otherwise, it will just be a huge waste of time. So, what are the mistakes that are holding you back?
That’s what we’re going to explore here.
You see people as a means rather than an ends
It’s easy to do. You network to build up new contacts which you can then use to advance your social life or your career. Therefore, the people you talk to are nothing more than means to an ends. And yet you’ve got to make sure that you don’t do that. For people are not tools. To treat them as such is, according to the preeminent philosopher Kant, immoral.
Perhaps more importantly for a more practically oriented post like this, many people will notice when you only see them as a stepping stone. And they won’t like it. That means that whatever effort you are putting into networking won’t be as effective.
So, make sure you actually focus on the person you’re talking to and give them the attention that a fully sentient being with wants and needs of their own deserves. That way you’ll build up a network that lasts and you might even come to enjoy networking as you truly connect with the people around you.
You only work on your network when you need it
Networking takes effort and – above all – time. For that reason, you can’t just try to build it up when you need it. People will feel that you just want something from them if you do it that way. Instead, if you devote some time to it every day, you’ll actually have the relationships in place to get what you want.
That means two things:
- Maintain the network you already have. Give a friend a call. Respond to people’s social media posts – particularly if it’s clear that it’s something they care about. Go to people’s parties when they have them.
- Reach out to new people. Again, you can do that by simply attending events, or you can ask your friends who they think you should meet. Then connect with those people and start building a relationship with them.
In this way you’ll have your network in place at the moment that you find yourself looking for a job, investors or a position at a graduate school.
You are neglecting your personal brand
When you connect with people in a business capacity, you can be sure that they’ll check up on you before they decide to offer you a job, introduce you to their business partner or see if they want to offer you that freelance contract.
That means that you’ve got to make sure your online presence is in tip top shape. To do that, you need to start mastering the art of personal branding. In a nutshell that means sharpening your online social media profiles so that they look profession, creating portfolios where people can see your work and building up a stream of positive stories (be they an informative speech, a newspaper article or blog posts) that push more negative news items further down in Google.
You don’t follow up
When you meet somebody at an event and you do the whole business of exchanging business cards, then you’ve got to follow up. You’ve got to send them a message saying that it was nice to meet them.
This will serve to remind them that you’re out there, will establish a more secure connection and demonstrate that you’re proactive and willing to engage. In that way, if you do reach out to them in the future, you’ll find that they are far more receptive to your overtures.
The best way to make sure that your message is not just some vapid ‘it was nice to meet you’ ask them what they’re doing right now when you meet them and get them to talk about it for a bit. Then, when you message them, you can bring that up again. This will make them feel like you’ve actually connected.
You don’t ping them
Remember, you’re not the only one trying to network. Most people are constantly meeting people who want to connect and create a network. For that reason, you’ve got to make sure you’re not just part of the herd.
The best way to do that is to make sure that you venture into new territory. And the best way to do that is to ask unusual questions. Of course, you’ve got to ask ‘what do you do’. That’s part of the introductory dance. From there, however, veer off into new territory. Follow up with a ‘is that what you imagined you’d be doing five years ago?’ or ‘how is that working out for you?’
The advantage of these kinds of questions is that it moves away from defining a person by their job into finding out what a person actually cares about and what matters to them.
The problem many people have with networking is that they see it as something that they’ve got to do. And when they’re engaged in it, it shows. It often feels when people are talking to you that they’re just going through the motions.
The thing is, that is not how you’ll connect to people. It has to be more than that. For that reason, try to show an interest, ask questions that matter and try to actually engage with the person you’re talking to.
If you can do that, then even though you might network less than other people, the connections you form are going to be far more durable and you’re going to be far more memorable. In that way, your network will be stronger and more stable. And that will make it far more useful than it otherwise would be.
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