March 01, 2023 3 min read
Whether you like it or not, networking is crucial to building and advancing your career or business.
It’s an opportunity to meet new people, connect and gain valuable insights and information to help you achieve your goals. However, networking can be intimidating and difficult, especially if you’re new to it.
Avoiding these common mistakes is vital to maximising your networking opportunities.
Networking is not just about asking for favours or job opportunities; it is not about “taking” or the frame “what’s in it for me?”. It’s about building relationships and making connections. Fundamentally, it’s about giving and “acting as a resource”.
People will be less likely to engage with you if you approach networking as a transactional process.
Instead, focus on building relationships and “giving” (time, insight, referral to someone in your network that can help etc.), and be genuine and sincere in your interactions.
While promoting yourself and your skills is essential, showing interest in others is often more critical. You will be uninteresting if you spend too much time discussing yourself and your achievements.
Instead, show a genuine interest in other people’s interests, business, and goals. Ask them about their experiences and what they’re currently navigating, and - most importantly - listen actively to their response.
Networking is just the beginning of building relationships. If you don’t follow up with the people you meet, you miss opportunities to deepen those relationships.
Following up can be as simple as sending a quick email or message to thank them for the conversation and express your interest in staying in touch.
The best follow-ups are when you can provide some assistance to help people forward on their journey, such as:
Networking events can be overwhelming, but unpreparedness can make the experience even more stressful.
Before attending an event, research the attendees and speakers, and prepare some questions or conversation starters. The key is to identify things or interests you may have in common and use those as a launch pad. This will help you to feel more confident and make the most of your time.
While being proactive in networking is essential, being too aggressive can be off-putting. Pushing for opportunities or being too persistent can make you seem desperate.
Instead, focus on building relationships and engaging with people naturally and respectfully. Remember your focus should be to act as a “resource”.
Networking is a long-term investment. Refrain from expecting the relationships you build to yield immediate benefits; it is unrealistic to expect results immediately.
Keep in touch with your contacts, and continue to provide value to them to build the relationship over time. You will reap fourfold what you sew.
Finally, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in networking is not being true to yourself.
Trying to be someone you’re not or pretending to have skills or interests you don’t have will ultimately lead to disappointment and frustration - and make everyone involved feel uncomfortable.
Instead, be brave and show up as your authentic self; people will feel this and be more likely to connect with you.
Networking is an essential part of building and advancing your business and career. Avoiding these common mistakes will help you build meaningful and lasting relationships.
Remember to approach networking “as a resource” by showing interest in others’ experiences and journeys and being authentically you. With these strategies in mind, you can turn networking into a valuable tool for achieving your career goals. So get out there!
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