We've all heard how important networking is. But just going through the motions isn't going to cut it. Learn how to make -- and maintain -- meaningful professional connections.
You may think you know all the ins and outs of networking, but are you actually networking effectively? It goes further than having the most connections on LinkedIn. It comes down to the quality of your connections -- not the quantity. The secret is nurturing these professional relationships so everyone involved benefits.
These days, having the right connections is everything. You could land your dream job just by knowing the right people. But in a recent OfficeTeam survey, 42 percent of senior managers said not asking others for help is the top networking mistake. Failing to keep in touch with contacts ranked second, with 28 percent of the response.
It can be scary asking others for help, especially since no one wants to reek of desperation. But going it alone may not work out in the long run. And keep in mind that people will be more open to helping you if you pay it forward and act as a resource to your contacts by sharing interesting news articles, forwarding job openings or offering introductions.
Best Ways to Connect
Social networking is all the rage these days, so it's no surprise that nearly half of the respondents in the OfficeTeam study (47 percent) identified online networking as the most effective way to connect with professional acquaintances. Online networking is great, but don't overlook other methods, like meeting for lunch or coffee, attending local networking events or participating in professional associations. You should also always have business cards and an elevator pitch ready since you never know when or where you might meet a new contact!
If you want to be at the top of your game when networking, you should also avoid these mistakes:
- Not viewing it as a two-way street. It's not all about you. The best way to establish a strong network is to offer assistance to your contacts at every opportunity. Also, don't forget to thank those who lend you a hand and always look to return the favor.
- Sending mass broadcasts. No one enjoys feeling like they're being spammed. You'll probably have more success if you send targeted, personalized messages to those that will find the information most relevant. This is especially true if you're requesting help.
- Connecting with absolutely everyone. Don't invite strangers to your network just to make it larger. And if someone wants to connect with you, it's fine to evaluate the request before deciding whether or not to accept. Your network is only as strong as its weakest connection. Plus, it's not totally unheard of for companies to reach out to individuals in a candidate’s network outside of their references for more insight.
- Being vague in your requests. Let contacts know specifically how they can help you. For example, if you’re asking someone to serve as a reference, provide that person a copy of your resume as well as the names of who might be calling.
- Going overboard. Avoid making unreasonable demands that will require a lot of time and effort. And don't be overly aggressive. Bombarding people with repeated requests to join your network is creepy. Try not to take it personally if someone doesn't want to connect with you or isn't able to help you out.
Check out the infographic below for the full OfficeTeam survey findings.
What other networking no-nos do you think people should avoid?