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
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
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
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.