10 Networking Mistakes You Shouldn't Make

Networking makes landing a job, starting a business, and just about everything else in life a little bit easier — provided you network well. If you connect with people in such a way that you irritate them or show a poor side of yourself, your networking efforts can actually hurt you. (See also: Networking Basics for Regular People)

It's crucial to avoid networking mistakes as much as possible. The list below is not exhaustive — there will always be a new way to trip up out there — but if you can at least avoid these mistakes, you'll be well on your way to improving your networking efforts.

1. Connecting With the Wrong People

Just because someone is available doesn't mean they can help with the particular project you're working on. Asking a freelancer, for instance, with help landing a full-time job is just going to confuse that freelancer — she's just not going to be as familiar with the question as a hiring manager.

2. Networking in a Rush

Some people wait until they desperately need help to network. That approach can lead to some serious desperation, which shows. If your contacts know that you need them much more than they need you, they'll be turned off.

3. Failing to Follow Up

If you connect with someone, you're going to need to keep in touch to actually build a relationship. Going to a networking event and collecting a deck of business cards isn't enough to get you a connection who you can ask for a favor.

4. Being Unprofessional

Networking may not be all about finding a job, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be professional about the process. Even little details, like an email address that tries too hard to be cute, can be off-putting.

5. Forcing a Connection Through Multiple Contacts

This particular mistake happens more frequently online. In an attempt to network, a person will send multiple tweets or comment on multiple blog posts very quickly, almost like she's trying to create a connection through quantity of communications.

6. Spamming Your Contacts

Once a connection is established, you effectively have permission to communicate further. But you don't have permission to spam your contacts with updates, email newsletters, requests to fund your Kickstarter, or anything else. You need to send personalized communications if you want people to pay attention.

7. Making It All About You

There has to be some give (as well as some take) in networking so that your connections will continue to want to help you in the long run.

8. Monopolizing a New Connection's Time

Particularly at networking events, there's a temptation to talk to someone for as long as possible — to really cement the new relationship — but doing so frustrates everyone else in the room. And it might not just be people in the room you're irritating. Everyone you meet has a life outside of the place you meet them.

9. Failing to Return the Favor

If a connection does you a favor, there's an expectation that you'll try to help him out down the road. You may not always be able to follow up perfectly, but intentionally blowing off a connection's request is rude.

10. Lying

You would think that people would know better than to lie. Don't lie to a new connection about what you can do or who you know. Your new contact will discover your lie, and sooner than you think.

Any networking mistakes I've overlooked? Please share them in comments!

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Guest's picture

Networking will only work if you are trying to build genuine relationships. People are quick to figure out if you are just trying to use them. Be helpful honest and friendly. The sooner you start networking the you become and the easier it gets. Dont look like a stalker when you are networking.

Guest's picture

Hi Thursday,
Yes, obviously many of these are bad ideas, but I would add at least one exception. Networking can be a process and while it's clearly a mistake to knowingly spend time and energy networking with "the wrong people," it is sometimes not so easy or obvious at first to distinguish or to know which contacts will lead in the right direction. Be careful not to be too timid while making connections.