Author: Laura Mazzullo
A lot of great discussions arose after I posted my last article about the power of networking. I have come to realize that there is much more to discuss on this important topic! Let’s look more deeply at the common mistakes people make when it comes to networking.
Many in my network have expressed a desire to make some ‘career resolutions’ and professional improvements for 2017; this is a great time of year to consider how you are approaching networking.
As I mentioned in my last article: I am a big believer in the power of networking, and I encourage people in HR/Talent to avoid resisting it. There is strength in knowledge, and knowledge is gained by remaining curious and humble to what’s happening in your field of expertise. Yet, so many people remain resistant to connecting with others. They stay isolated. They remain guarded. They don’t want to connect with others. This is short-sighted, and limiting professional development. I personally believe most people want to connect and network with positive intentions: learning, sharing, humanity, curiosity, fun, and understanding.
Is one of your professional resolutions to do a better job of connecting and networking in 2017? Passionate about ensuring you will remain kind, open, curious about learning from others? Eager to learn more and stay engaged in your field of expertise? Then, get out there!
Before you begin networking, be aware of these 6 things you may want to avoid doing along your journey:
1. Sending LinkedIn invitations without personalized notes
Building your network on LinkedIn is so important; not only when you’re job-searching or hiring (which is when most mistakenly only make the time to network). Make an effort each month to focus on this. When you identify someone you’d like to LinkIn with, don’t just send them a generic invitation. Write a note! Share why you’re reaching out to them and why you’re looking to connect specifically with them. You’ll have more accepted invites this way, but more importantly-you’ll build a personal brand and people will know who you authentically are. Don’t hide behind invisibility. Show yourself and your personality!
2. Dismissing LinkedIn invitations too soon
You are not going to want to accept every LinkedIn invitation you receive, but you shouldn’t just hit ‘ignore’ without taking the time to read someone’s profile! How do you know which ones to accept and which ones to ignore? Think of these questions: Will this person teach me something? Will I be able to teach this person something? Will we be able to inspire each other? Could this be a mentor/mentee/peer? Am I intrigued by their background? If so, accept! But, take a moment to read through the profile and be really thoughtful about it. Create and nurture a network that works for you.
3. Resisting networking events within your field of expertise
Are you deleting the emails you receive inviting you to various networking events in your field? It happens. You feel like you get ‘so many’ and you negatively assume they’ll be boring or a waste of time. What if you thought of it from a new perspective? What if you said “I’m going to go to 2 networking events in my field each month. The ones I got something out of, I will continue pursuing. The ones that weren’t useful-I won’t attend again. But, let me go and see who I meet and see what I learn”. I personally learn something from every networking event I go to, and encourage it for everyone. Again, don’t wait until you’re job-searching or hiring to attend industry networking events. They’re even more beneficial when you’re engaged at work and have the curiosity to listen, process and learn!
4. Getting on the defensive, assuming everyone is ‘selling you something’
I was recently at a networking event and a few ‘salespeople’ approached me to try and sell me their services. This doesn’t bother me except that they didn’t engage in a conversation first, or build rapport. They went right into a hard sell! But, will that keep me from attending that event again? No! Because I met a few other great people whom I’ll stay in touch with and can continue to learn from. Don’t let a few aggressive people ruin networking for you. Politely decline whatever they’re hawking if it doesn’t interest you, and move on to people who make you feel comfortable and keep your interest. Sure, some people only want to know you so they can ‘sell’ you; but I would say those are a big minority. Most people are approaching connection from a positive and kind perspective. Keep that focus!
5. Feeling too protective of your own knowledge and expertise
This is a common mistake I’m seeing, especially in the HR/Talent space. Since it’s gotten so competitive to attract talent, some people feel like they should ‘hide their secrets’ from others. How silly! This world is transparent, authentic and global. We are sharing. Get on the bandwagon. Don’t be scared to share your best practices with someone else in your field, or even share some of your frustrations and seek advice. Building that vulnerability with someone else in your field will make you more knowledgeable. Sharing with someone: “One of the challenges I’ve been facing is….do you have any advice?” will help you learn, and will show humility and curiosity. This goes for all levels of employees. Connect. Don’t resist authentic connection by remaining closed-off.
6. Viewing networking selfishly, forgetting about mentorship/inspiring others
Some people I talk to view networking as a way to ‘get something’. They see it as a way to gain their own contacts to either help them now or in the future. Then they go to events and are solely looking for ‘what’s in it for them’. That really turns people off! Instead, think of who you can help! There are people who would love to learn from you, to ask you questions, to seek your advice. If you can enter networking with the perspective of “who can I help? Where can I add value?” it’ll be a more positive experience for you and for them. Don’t worry, you’ll get something in return, too. But, shifting your mindset from selfish to selfless will make you someone people are drawn to!
Hope these pointers help as you consider increasing and improving your networking efforts for 2017! Do share: What has worked well for you in networking? What will you start doing or stop doing this year when it comes to networking/making connections?
Remember, do not wait until you’re hiring or job-searching to make connections in your field. Build your network all year long! Learn. Share. Ask. Tell. Keep your door open to learning.
Follow East Side Staffing on Twitter and Instagram @EastSideStaff and let’s keep learning from each other!
Laura Mazzullo is the Founder and Owner of East Side Staffing, a boutique recruitment firm focused on the placement of Human Resources professionals. Since 2003, Laura has maintained a successful career in Recruitment working in major markets such as Chicago, Illinois, Stamford, Connecticut and New York, New York.