Building a business network takes time and effort, so be sure to do it right.
by Maurie Backman
When it comes to furthering your career, you'll often hear that the people you know are just as important as the things you know, if not more so. Knowing the right people can open the door to new opportunities and help you develop skills you can't learn from a class or a book. And the best way to meet those key people is to network as much as you can.
That said, if you're going to network, it pays to do so effectively. Here are a few networking mistakes you'll want to avoid at all costs.
1. Not being choosy
It's a good thing to be open-minded in the process of networking, because you never know when someone you'd otherwise be inclined to write off could end up being extremely helpful to your career. That said, your goal in networking should be to amass a list of useful contacts -- not connect with every waking person who's willing to give you the time of day. If you're not at all selective about the people you add to your professional network, you'll risk wasting your time on the wrong contacts and ignoring the folks who deserve more of your attention. Therefore, be a little picky when deciding who to stay in touch with.
2. Being too demanding
You'll often hear that you need to be somewhat aggressive if you want to move your career forward. But if you cross the line into becoming obnoxiously pushy, you'll risk alienating those contacts who could otherwise be of service to you.
Therefore, be careful not to ask too much of your associates, especially those you don't know very well. If, for example, you meet someone at a business conference whose company you've been itching to work for, you should most certainly follow up with an email containing your resume and ask that it be forwarded. You can then feel free to follow up a week after the fact, and maybe even a week after that. But don't hound that contact with follow-ups the day after your first email is sent, and don't push too hard if that person insists that he did what he was asked to do. You're better off expressing your gratitude and maintaining a good relationship.
3. Not following up
Meeting someone at an industry gathering and exchanging business cards will only get you so far if you don't have another conversation following that encounter. Failing to follow up with your contacts will essentially negate the effort you put into building those relationships in the first place. Rather than let that happen, make a list of the people you need to stay in touch with, and set calendar notes that remind you to reach out with emails or invites to lunch.
You can also stay in touch with your contacts by sharing information you come across. For example, if you happen to read an interesting article about your industry, there's nothing wrong with forwarding it to a few people who might share the same view -- and that's an easy way to make contact and maintain relationships.
Networking is an unquestionably important aspect of building a solid career. Steer clear of these mistakes to avoid missing out on key opportunities.