Almost everyone has had bad experiences while networking. Donna Fisher, author of Power Networking, writes that “Networking is often given a bad reputation because some people use the concept in a way that is inconsiderate, inappropriate, unprofessional, or just shortsighted.” Yup – that about covers it.
Fisher lists some of the biggest networking mistakes people make. Here are my top three:
1. Coming on too strong: It’s obvious to everyone when your networking is all about you. Many people make the mistake of trying to sell, ask or push something too quickly. People do want to get to know you as a person first. That includes asking others we know and trust what they think about you. So if you come off as pushy a few times in a row, word will travel very quickly that you’re someone to duck at events or in social media. Fisher recommends taking a genuine interest in others first and asking questions. “Sell yourself first,” she says.
2. Being insincere. Everyone hates it when people promise things they can’t – or won’t – deliver. It’s much better to stay quiet than to promise something that makes you look like a star at the moment and a rat later when you don’t follow through. It’s also a reputation killer (see number one above.) Fisher says “…networking is not about immediate gratification, but building a long term support system. The quality of your network is directly related to [your] sincerity.”
3. Rudeness: There are a couple of forms of this. One is what I call the Scanner. She will shake your hand and spend two minutes with you, looking over your shoulder the whole time to see if anyone more interesting or important has come in. Another version is the “I thought you were somebody, but I was wrong” guy. He’ll spend just enough time to hear what you do, then drop you to go look for someone more useful to him. The counterpart to this is the Desperado. The Desperado will monopolize the conversation for a long time, ignoring your increasingly obvious body language signals that it’s time to move on.
Are you guilty of any of these? Do you have a networking horror story to share? Email me.