Five Common Networking Mistakes Made by Executives
Meeting people is easy. Maintaining connections is much harder
You've worked for several businesses, attended dozens of conferences and are on a first-name basis with hundreds of people in your field. The longer you've been around, the larger your contact list tends to grow.
But even if you’re at the top of your game in business, you may not have everything down pat when it comes to the finer points of networking. A recent Robert Half Management Resources survey revealed the top five networking mistakes executives make. Here they are, along with tips on how to correct them:
1. NOT ASKING FOR ASSISTANCE
Everyone needs help from time to time. In fact, it’s a virtue, not a weakness, to inform others you could use a hand. When you request assistance, you create opportunities to deepen relationships with people in your network.
Do you need advice on which cloud accounting platform to subscribe to? Perhaps you’re recruiting candidates for a hard-to-fill job. Or maybe you’re seeking your next professional challenge and would love a job lead or introduction. Getting help from someone typically makes them feel good about their working relationship with you. Don’t be scared to ask for help – most professional contacts like to share their expertise and opinions.
2. REACHING OUT ONLY WHEN YOU NEED SOMETHING
Asking for help is fine, but not when that’s the only time people hear from you. Strong networking requires staying in steady contact, not treating colleagues like they’re favor fairies. The big question is how. Executives have hundreds – even thousands – of names in their professional networks, which can make finding time to stay in touch difficult. The good news is there are many ways to stay in touch without sidetracking your day-to-day business.
Here are a few ideas:
- Send congratulatory emails when you hear good news about someone or their company.
- Forward colleagues an article or job posting you think might be of interest.
- Plan to have lunch, dinner, coffee and drinks with acquaintances during a conference.
- When traveling for work, contact someone who lives in your destination city and suggest meeting up.
Proper networking is methodical. While there’s no need to modify a CRM (customer relationship management) for your circle – you can track interactions using Excel. List each person’s name, job title, company, contact info and the date of each encounter. As you reach out, update the spreadsheet and jot down a few notes about the interaction.
3. FAILING TO CONNECT WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
This isn’t about connecting with the “wrong” people. There’s no such thing, and being a networking snob can backfire, anyway. This mistake has more to do with not being strategic when networking. Let’s say your company is moving in a tech-led direction. This means many of your new connections should be with people who have a deep understanding of tech trends.
To meet these professionals, go where they are. Start in-house by getting out of your silo and spending time with colleagues in IT. Then expand the types of networking events you attend to include conferences on automation, machine learning, big data analytics, or any other topics that might be relevant.
4. NOT THANKING CONTACTS WHEN THEY PROVIDE HELP
Writing thank-you notes should be at the top of your to-do list. When you fail to show your appreciation after someone does you a favor, they’re less likely to go out of their way if you ask for help.
Fortunately, this networking mistake is easy to rectify. Handwritten notes are the gold standard, but email is also perfectly acceptable. The message doesn’t have to be long. Be specific about what you’re thanking them for, and sign off by letting them know you’d be happy for the opportunity to help them in the future.
5. NOT ASSISTING OTHERS
Networking is based on reciprocity. In practical terms, this means saying “yes” more often than “no.” So write that recommendation letter for a former colleague or accept that request for an informational meeting with a friend’s college-age child. When you cannot agree to a request, look for other ways to assist. For example, offer to make introductions if you cannot accommodate an informational interview.
Meeting people is easy. Maintaining connections is much harder. Avoid these five mistakes, and you’ll go a long way in nurturing your network.
John Wallace is the division director for Robert Half Management Resources, the premier provider of senior-level finance, accounting, and business systems professionals to companies on a project and interim basis. He is a Certified Internal Auditor with a background in auditing, risk management and compliance. Robert Half Management Resources has more than 140 locations worldwide and offers online services at www.roberthalfmr.com.