145: How to Fail at Networking
HOW TO FAIL AT NETWORKING
You’ve heard this statistic: as much as 85% of jobs are obtained through the “hidden” job market.
“Hidden,” meaning these jobs aren’t advertised.
The vast majority of these “hidden” jobs are obtained through networking.
Here’s what many people do wrong in networking…and how you can avoid these traps.
1. Networking only when you’re job searching.
Many people think of their network only in terms of looking for a job.
If they are in job search mode, they network.
Then they turn it off until the next time they are looking for a job.
Remember Noah from the Bible? He didn’t wait until it was raining to build the ark.
The sun was shining, life looked pretty good, nothing to worry about…and he’s out there, making an effort for what seemed like no reason.
He trusted that an ark would be needed, so he started working on it before he needed it.
The antidote: Schedule regular, on-going networking time, so your network will be there when you need it.
This can be achieved formally through a networking group like BNI, or informally through one-on-one coffee dates or lunch meetings.
I recommend a combination of both.
2. Taking a tommy gun, rather than bow-and-arrow, approach.
Many people make the mistake of not taking a strategic approach to networking.
They take one of those gangster guns and “shoot” everybody with their networking, hoping in the process they “shoot” someone who can help them.
I advocate a “bow-and-arrow” approach that is strategic and focused.
What goals do I currently have for networking?
Who do I want to network with? (These can be specific people, or types of people)
Where do I need to position myself to meet those people? (Specific networking groups, professional organizations, venues)
3. Making it all about you.
Ineffective networkers take a barnacle approach to networking.
They latch on to those they network with and suck whatever they can out of them.
Effective networking should be an exchange among equals…you give as good as you get.
What’s more…you give BEFORE you get.
In a 30-minute coffee date, make the first 20 minutes about the other person.
Here’s the challenge for you: LISTEN. Deeply.
Then add value wherever you can.
How? Suggest a strategy the other person hasn’t thought of, a person he would benefit from meeting, a tool or resource she could use to solve her most pressing problem.
Then, when it’s your time to ask, your connection will be much more likely to go the extra mile to help you.
4. Being vague with requests.
Ineffective networkers say things like “Hey, if you hear of anything, let me know.”
This will fly in one ear and out the other, because there’s no specific action you are requesting of your connection.
Say something like, “I see from your LinkedIn profile that you are connected with Sally Jones at XYZ company, which is one of my target employers. I’d really appreciate an e-mail introduction to Sally.”
Which leads nicely to my final point:
5. Not following up/through.
This may be my #1 point for business professionals in general: They let things slip through the cracks, either as a result of poor organizational skills, poor time management, laziness, or fear.
As a result, their networking efforts are largely in vain.
After the conversation above, reach out to your connection as soon as possible via email. Thank him for his time, provide him with anything you promised him, and remind him that he said he would make an email introduction to Sally Jones for you.
If you have to do this a couple of times, then do so. Be gently persistent.
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