Regardless of the role or industry, nearly every job requires networking in some form in order to be successful. No matter how talented a business owner is or how in-demand his or her products are, a company can’t succeed without reaching the right people. This applies to a job search as well, as those who have successful careers typically have strong personal and professional networks and vice versa.
Though networking, both face-to-face and online, has become a necessary staple of the job search process, some job seekers still seem to get it wrong. Of course, there are some whose products or services are so in demand that they will make connections regardless of their actions. But for most of us, networking takes time and effort, and understanding how valuable connections are made and why they’re necessary will improve job seekers’ chances of achieving career success. Let’s look at a few networking mistakes job seekers often make, and how they can damage their prospects.
1. The Hard Seller
The goal of networking should be to establish long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with individuals with similar interests. These relationships can then be leveraged when seeking employment, referrals, recommendations, advice, or mentoring. Certainly, networking requires some self-promotion; otherwise, it would be nearly impossible to determine who has similar backgrounds and interests. Unfortunately, some see networking as an opportunity to take self-promotion to the extreme, giving everyone they meet the “hard sell.” The goal of these hard sellers is to try to impress as many people as possible by talking about themselves as much as possible. This often produces the opposite of their intended results, as many are turned off by braggarts who show little interest in others.
2. The Self-Server
While hard sellers will network with anyone willing to listen to them talk about their favorite subject (themselves), self-servers are only willing to network with those who they believe can help advance their careers. Once they target someone, they may also prove to be hard sellers. However, if self-servers discover that the person they’re speaking with doesn’t have the professional clout they originally thought, they won’t waste another second before abruptly ending the conversation and searching for someone with the credentials necessary to further their career goals.
3. The Poor Communicator
Communication is the backbone of nearly every job, and it’s rare to find a successful employee with poor communication skills. Therefore, when networking with professionals who can help launch or advance one’s career, it’s imperative to demonstrate strong communication skills from the first interaction. Job seekers who use poor grammar, talk too much or too little or appear socially awkward or reluctant to answer questions about their background may raise concerns about their ability to communicate with coworkers, managers or clients once hired. While socializing may pose a challenge to introverts, it’s only the first of many hurdles they must clear during the job search process.
4. The Bad First Impression
As the saying goes, first impressions last, and making a bad first impression can be hard to overcome when networking with well-connected industry professionals. Whether it’s right or wrong, many people judge others on their appearance, and job seekers who attend networking events dressed sloppily or inappropriately are starting off on the wrong foot. Attire and grooming habits are often taken into account, as is the ability to give a proper handshake and personal introduction. Also, if alcohol is served, overindulging can be seen as a red flag and could easily kill potential job offers. Job seekers should always be cognizant of how they’re being perceived by those with whom they hope to form lasting professional relationships.
5. Failure to Follow Up
Oftentimes, those who are in a position to help others with their career or business goals are willing to meet at a later date or talk by phone, and will end their initial meeting with a simple “call me.” Job seekers should consider this a test to see if they can follow instructions and are truly worth the effort. Those who fail to follow up, who call at the wrong time, or who simply forget to call prove that their reliability is questionable, and recommending them for employment becomes a risk if they were to show similar unreliability at work. Also, sending a thank-you note to those who go out of their way to help is always a good practice, whereas failing to acknowledge their effort may appear selfish or inconsiderate.
Networking is often the first step in the job search process; therefore, it should be treated with the same dedication and professionalism as job interviews or work functions. Also, networking should be viewed as a two-way street. Each party should be willing to help the other, and today’s job seeker may be tomorrow’s employer or mentor. Just like a successful career, networking can’t be achieved overnight but requires an investment in time. Those who approach it with a professional, friendly, selfless, and persistent attitude will eventually see positive results.