How to Fail at Networking
By Rafael Herrera, Career Coach, Online Campus Support Center
Failure is human, and relationships are rarely easy - even professional ones. Failing in networking is no different from failing in any other kind of human relationship.
Often, the reasons for failure in various types of relationships overlap. When you hit obstacles in the relationship road, they’re great opportunities to take a step back and reflect. To help you navigate the road to successful business relationships, avoid the following pitfalls:
The ‘Gimme’ Syndrome
Networking isn’t all about you. Like any relationship, it should be a two-way street. Perhaps your goal is to obtain a connection who can provide a job lead or other resource. These are good goals, but what’s in it for the other person?
Build a networking bridge by identifying shared professional backgrounds or a career interest, so that the potential gain for both is obvious. In your connection requests, including the phrase, “If there is anything I can do to help you…,” is a green light to creating that two-way street. You might think that you have nothing to offer your new connection, but you won’t know for sure until you try.
Not following through on a promise is an excellent way to fail at networking. Put yourself in another's shoes. If you were promised a resource or phone number by a connection that they failed to deliver, you’d be annoyed. At the least, you wouldn’t be motivated to connect with that person in the future. At most, they’ve tarnished their credibility with you.
Good intentions are great, but if you find yourself practicing all talk and no actual show, you’ve conveyed that undependable impression to others. As a professional potentially involved in the same social or professional circles, you can develop a decidedly untrustworthy reputation among us. Always make sure to follow through with promises you make, or provide a timely explanation for why you can’t fulfill them. Even if you can’t make good on a promise, your connections will gain trust in you for showing that you value your commitments to them.
Connecting, but Not Connecting
Sending general cookie-cutter messages as invitations to connect is sure to fail in motivating anyone to form a relationship with you. Though you’re often requesting connections via computer, don’t forget a human is at the other end.
Send unique messages to people in the language that you use in your personal and professional life, letting the context of each situation be your guide. You’re hopefully connecting to people with similar interests as your own, so the stage is already set. People aren’t obligated to reciprocate your interest in connecting, but if you seem personable, professional or interesting that may be enough reason for potential connections to go for it.
When networking, remember the relationship basics that you’d normally practice in face-to-face interaction. If you don’t, you’ll lose out on the value of networking. Just as with all relationships, missing the human element in networking misses the point.
Rafael Herrera holds a master’s degree in community counseling from Argosy University and a bachelor’s in psychology from Loyola University Chicago. He serves as a career coach at Colorado Technical University working with students through career courses and coaching. Rafael also publishes CTU’s biweekly career services newsletter.
Image credit: Flickr/Lyle58