Job-hunting experts constantly give advice on networking. Connecting with people you’ve worked with in the past and meeting new people can be the best way to find a new job, find new people to hire, and build your client base. It’s a critical skill, and many of us need to be better at it. But sometimes, we’re not just bad at networking, we’re destructive. We offend the very people we want to build relationships with. Here’s what you might be doing wrong.
1. It’s all about me. If your relationships in the business world tend to focus on me, me, me, then people won’t want to talk to you. While it’s good for people to know about you and your skills, you also need to find out about them. People love to talk about themselves, and if you don’t let them, it’s bad news.
2. Informational interviews under false pretenses. If you want to talk to someone about a job, don’t ask for an informational interview. An informational interview is one in which you learn about the other person’s company or job. It’s not a trick where you just get your foot in the door and then spend the time telling the person why she should hire you. Do this, and you’re almost guaranteed to be deleted from her LinkedIn connections.
3. Not interested in helping others. Networking is a two-way street. If I’ve helped you land a job, but you have no time for me when I’m looking, then forget that. You need to focus on helping others as often as possible.
4. Undermining instead of building up. You don’t network by talking about how awful other people are (with the idea that you’ll get the job instead). If you’re fabulous, you don’t need to worry about your competition. Talking trash about other people will make you look bad.
5. Silence, silence, silence–“Help me right now!”–silence. You haven’t said a word to any of the 500 people on your LinkedIn account in five years, but now you need a job and you email blast all of them. You pump them for information, ask for introductions, references, and favor after favor, and then land a new job and go back into hibernation. These people aren’t going to feel warm and fuzzy about helping you again in the future.
6. TMI. While you need to maintain relationships with people, it’s also bad to overshare. Don’t discuss your marital difficulties with your former boss. Don’t talk about your credit rating with your co-workers. Don’t post on the internet about how you’re looking for a new job because your current boss is a jerk. Don’t call someone and cry on the phone about how your house will be in foreclosure if you can’t find a job right away. Instead, talk about how you add value to a company.
7. Not doing your research. “Tell me about your company” is not a statement that should come out of your mouth at any time other than during a social activity. Whether you’re cold calling someone or have had a mutual contact set up a meeting, you need to learn what you can about the company and the person. Walking into a meeting–even at a coffee shop–without any knowledge is a waste of the other person’s time.
8. Old-fashioned rudeness. Demanding time and information, acting put out if someone doesn’t jump when you snap your fingers can destroy your opportunity to learn something new. Additionally, approaching someone at a funeral, or bothering the person at an amusement park, may ruin the relationship. And remember to always say thank you.
9. Lying. While we all expect a bit of hyperbole when people are attempting to sell themselves, outright lying will offend your network. For instance, let’s say you’re chatting with your neighbor about your career aspirations, and your neighbor says, “Oh, I know the company I work for is looking for a business analyst,” and you say, “I have gobs of experience.” The neighbor then, graciously, sets up a meeting with the marketing director at his company. If you don’t have the experience you told your neighbor you had, the meeting will be under false pretenses, and your neighbor will be ticked. You’ve just made him look bad in the eyes of a senior colleague.
10. Demanding results. Monday: “Hi, Jane. It’s been a long time since we talked, but I was hoping you could help me out … ” Tuesday: “Jane, did you get my message yesterday?” Wednesday: “Jane, I hope you’re not on vacation. I really want … ” Thursday: “Jane, I left you three voice mails and … ” etc. Following up is important in networking, but so is taking a hint and leaving someone alone. Especially if Jane already responded to you, but it wasn’t to your satisfaction. Remember no one is obligated to help you.