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Five networking blunders to avoid

Posted by Chad O'Connor  October 15, 2013 11:00 AM

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There are lots of networking tips available, but we don’t often get tips on what to avoid. For a variety of reasons, it is important to be well networked, maintain your network, stay top of mind, treat others like you would want to be treated, and avoid mistakes. Not doing the right thing often happens unconsciously and can lead to lost future business. Below are some networking tips to to keep in mind.

1. Don’t lose touch with your important contacts.
Here’s a scenario – you used to be in touch with a past client but that relationship fell off your radar screen and then one day you learn that past client hired a competitor of yours. More likely than not you were not top of mind when a need arose, because you weren’t managing the relationship, but a competitor was. That situation can also happen with referral sources, and you could lose out on referrals for the same reasons. To minimize that happening, create a follow-up system and follow it regularly.

Go through your contacts and prioritize them. Then put a weekly reminder on your calendar to reach out to your contacts. Choose a manageable amount of contacts to reach out to per week, and then call or email them.

Make sure you get face time with your most important contacts, which can include current or past clients, referral sources, and prospective clients. Set up something that makes sense based on the other person’s interests. It could be coffee, lunch, drinks, attending a sporting event, etc. Other ways to stay top of mind include LinkedIn announcements, newsletters, invitations to events, sending articles of interest, or a get together with several contacts at once.

2. Don’t just reach out when you need something.
Having a good network can be very powerful. It can open doors, help secure a job, and help with career advancement. What people should avoid doing is only reaching out to certain people when they need something. Often people do this unconsciously and unintentionally but it happens. A need arises, you ask a contact for help, and then the contact doesn’t hear from you again until another need arises. If you find yourself doing this repeatedly with someone in particular, make it a point to stay in touch regularly.

People like to help others, but eventually favors will wear out, especially if someone feels like they are being taken advantage of constantly. Additionally, be reasonable with requests. Advice is one thing, but if the request will take too much of someone’s time, consider hiring someone to help you.

3. Don't forget to thank and show appreciation when others help you.
People shouldn’t help others with the intention of expecting something back. However, they do deserve a thank you for being thoughtful and taking the time to help, so if someone does something nice for you, make sure you at least thank them.

A thank you email is appropriate, but a verbal thank you, hand written thank you note, or something else to show your appreciation goes a long way, especially if someone has helped you many times. Don’t assume someone isn’t important enough and take them for granted, as they may not help you again.

Here’s a scenario to consider - someone asks you for a referral to someone with a specific expertise. Joe and Jane come to mind. You’ve sent referrals to both in the past; however, Jane thanked you last time and Joe did not acknowledge the referral, because he is used to getting referrals and takes referral relationships for granted. How likely are you to choose Joe this time around?

Another scenario - a candidate for a job applied at a company, didn’t get a response, and then you took the time to reach out to your contact at the company, and wrote a recommendation. The candidate then got the job but didn’t bother to let you know and didn’t thank you. How likely is it that you would go out of your way for that person again? Probably not very likely.

4. Don't mistreat anyone, no matter what.
Assume everyone is important, and treat everyone just as you would want to be treated. Don’t assume that someone less senior than you or younger than you is not worth paying attention to. Aside from it being common courtesy, they could be a referral source or in a position to hire you now or in the future. You never know how your paths could cross in the future.

5. Don't make the focus of the conversation just about you.
Lastly, when meeting someone for the first time, make it about them and not about you. Do more listening than speaking. Don’t immediately start asking someone to help you with something, as that can be a turnoff. It is better to get to know the other person first and build the relationship. They may offer to help you without you having to ask.

All of the above tips probably seem like a no brainer, but it is surprising how often these scenarios take place. That is why it is important to at least remind yourself they happen, and be mindful of how you manage the relationships you have.

Ellen Keiley is President of the MBA Women International Boston Chapter Board of Directors, serves as a Vice Chair of the United Way and City Year’s Women’s Leadership Initiatives, serves on the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Advisory Council, appears weekly on RadioBDC’s Global Business Hub segment, and writes for The Women’s Book and Project Eve. She can be contacted at ellenmkeiley@gmail.com
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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