Five networking mistakes you should avoid

As a leader, you’re already aware of the importance of having the right professional contacts and how they can help open doors to all kinds of opportunities. But networking and relationship building takes time and energy. Make sure you are getting the most out of your networking opportunities. 

Here are five common networking mistakes to avoid, and what you should try instead. 

 

1. No clear strategy

Rather than networking ad hoc, you’re better off being strategic, says LinkedIn expert Simon Gray. Your time is precious, so map out a plan for the next 6 months, to include online and offline relationship building opportunities. Consider your motivation for each one, what you’re hoping to learn or who you want to meet. Prioritise attending industry events where executives you admire are speaking, as this will help ensure you get in front of the right people. 

A crucial part of successful networking means staying relevant online. Rather than setting and forgetting when it comes to your LinkedIn profile, allocate regular time in your schedule and keep it up to date. Your connections will be inspired by authentic and relevant insights, so investing time sharing your knowledge will help build authority with your audience. Asking others to endorse your skills can also help build your credibility. 

 

2. Not doing your homework

Find out who’ll be at an event and come prepared with questions. Instead of trying to talk to everyone in the room, plan to engage in one or two higher-level conversations with the right people. Collecting two business cards you can actually follow-up on is a much more effective use of your valuable time.


 
3. Being all talk

Building genuine personal connections involves listening. The biggest mistake you can make is to dominate a conversation and talk endlessly about yourself and your business. “Be curious about the other person,” urges Tracey Grove from Microsoft. Asking a thoughtful and researched question can also help to put other people at ease. And be memorable. Ask someone what they’re working on in their business, rather than just their job title. For a genuinely engaging interaction, don't be afraid to inject some personality into your face-to-face conversations.

 

4. Hard selling

Nobody likes a hard sell; instead learn how you can help each new connection. If your objective is authentic, rather than self-serving, you’ve got more chance of establishing a high-quality mutually beneficial connection. Resist launching into a sales pitch as it alienates new contacts. Relate, rather than promote and definitely save your business cards for those people who ask for one.

 

5. Missing a follow up opportunity

You never know when someone could become your future boss or client, so it’s handy to keep track of all new contacts. Reach out to new people on LinkedIn, using a personal message, and note down a few important things about them in a spreadsheet to help jog your memory down the track.

 

Networking done right can effectively raise your profile and advance your career. By being strategic in your approach, you’ll see the best results in the long-term.

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