Professional networking should be one of your top priorities if you are aspiring to make it big. Building powerful and authentic professional relationships can significantly boost your career and for that, it’s important to know the right skills and strategies so that you can make your efforts count. And, it’s even more important to know that a single blunder on your part can make all your efforts futile, or worse, have a negative impact on your career. It takes a lot to build a great professional network, including handling some minor to majorly offensive, annoying or odd statements and requests. You would be surprised to know that a number of smart and talented professionals also have such blunders to their credit. And, you might be unaware but you too are probably making some blunders in professional networking that are diluting all your efforts and damaging your chances of making strong connections that help in advancing the career.
Paying attention to the networking blunders and consciously avoiding them could be helpful in protecting your professional credibility and goodwill. Professional networking is something that you must do efficiently to achieve results. Take a look at the most common networking blunders that you must avoid at any cost.
- Being Self-Absorbed
Networking should be a two-way conversation and shouldn’t be focussed only on self-promotion. Many professionals forget this simple fact and channelize all their efforts into talking about their own career or business. If you imagine yourself at the receiving end of such behavior, you would know how annoying this could be. To build good networks you need to be genuinely interested in what your prospective connections are doing. If you show interest in their endeavors, they would show in yours.
- Dismissing Those Who Aren’t on Your List
While networking you meet a lot of people, including those who don’t seem to be your prospective connections. However, treating them as if they are not important is a blunder. It’s essential to treat everyone respectfully, even if it’s a brief encounter. A single disrespectful comment or impolite behavior could go a long way towards tarnishing your reputation.
- Not Being Always Prepared
Networking opportunities sometimes come unannounced and when they knock the door, you must be prepared to answer them professionally. A last-minute invitation to an event or a forgotten commitment can surface any time and if you are not always prepared to handle them you might miss out on a crucial opportunity. To avoid this, it’s best to always maintain a polished appearance and stay prepared. Carry your business card with you, keep your LinkedIn profile updated and dress professionally. First impressions do matter and you must always be ready to make a good one.
- Not Asking for Help
Professionals often make the mistake of thinking that asking for introductions, help or advice from other professionals might make them look weak or not useful. However, not many know that requesting an introduction is the very first step of networking. Networking is all about making new connections and requesting an introduction politely, respectfully and humbly can pave your way for a strong network.
- Being Over Demanding
A lot of people do not understand the importance of networking until they need something. And when they start networking they promptly start asking for referrals, introductions, and favors. This might be a big turn off for others. Before asking for favors you must build good relationships and trust, which, of course, takes time. In professional networking, you must have a mindset for ‘helping others first’. Demonstrate your willingness to help people achieve their goals. In this way, they would want to return your favor. However, all of this takes time and you need to start networking long before you intend to ask for a favor.
- Not Expanding Your Network
Networking might seem like an uncomfortable task initially and a lot of people tend to mingle only with the people they already know. That’s another blunder professionals make. You must continually strive to expand your network by connecting with new people. Getting out of your comfort zone might be difficult in the beginning but the effort pays off. It’s a great practice to strike meaningful conversations with strangers. Soon you would realize that people are a lot more approachable and welcoming than you thought they would be.
- Not Following Up
You cannot have a valuable contact by just meeting a person once. Relationships, be it personal or professional, are built over time. For developing a strong network you must follow up with the people you meet. You can find your new connections on LinkedIn and send them a personal message, in case they forgot about you. If someone looks like a strong potential contact, you can further invite them for an in-person meeting to strengthen your connection. Following up with people through email, messages or meeting is an important aspect of developing a good network.
To err is human and many professionals would be willing to forgive you in case you make an unintentional blunder, occasionally. However, the competition is fierce out there and losing the momentum, even for a brief period of time, due to a damaged reputation could impact your career severely. Being aware of the common blunders in professional networking and staying mindful can help you have an edge in your career.