• Matt Black

Networking Not Working? 3 Mistakes You’re Making & How to Fix Them Fast

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

I’m guessing you’ve heard this a time or two before.

And while not 100% accurate (I mean, I prefer my doctors and lawyers be well-versed in their fields as opposed to landing the job through a friend!) it's certainly true that your relationships in life can propel you forward, both personally and professionally.

But what happens when your requests for coffee go unanswered? Or how do you handle being swept up in the endless cycle of “I’m going to have to reschedule”s?

Well, the truth is, you’re probably falling into a few of the common traps that slow a lot of young professionals down.

Despite the fact that you’re the one looking to open doors, gain more knowledge of potential opportunities or simply learn more about a person’s career journey, it’s not all about you.

There’s got to be something in it for your potential new contact.

Maybe it’s, well, you, down the road as a future candidate. Perhaps it’s your ideas that stir something in them during your discussion. Or it could even be that you have another connection who might be intriguing to them.

Regardless, you better make sure there’s food on their plate if you bring them to the table.

Here are three networking mistakes you might be making (especially on LinkedIn) - and some advice on how to stop today:

Don’t be an ‘Ask-hole’

The age old debate on whether human beings are inherently selfish or altruistic continues to rage on, with evidence pointing to both sides being correct constantly on display. 

For some, being on a platform like LinkedIn is all about building a community of like-minded individuals - from their own industry and others - who they can share ideas and content with. They’re more than willing to schedule time for coffee or jump on a quick call to answer some questions. They do so without the expectation of reciprocity.

And for others, they simply don’t have the time (or interest!) to have their “brain picked” or to discuss their career paths. They might use the platform more transactionally, say for leads or to develop relationships with prospects already in their sales funnel.

I only paint this picture of two dissimilar people to illustrate the fact that both of these use cases are common - and for networkers, the reality you face while trying to connect with others.  

And that’s why it’s on you to find a way to make your networking a two-way street. 

Before you reach out, try to think of a couple reasons why this person would benefit from connecting with you. It’s hard to deny the fact that people are naturally intrigued and inspired when they know what’s in it for them.

If you set up a coffee meeting with a potential new connection, make sure you come prepared ready to share your thoughts on relevant issues, discuss your career path and professional experiences.  

And of course, if someone is kind enough to offer up their time or insights, please make sure that you send the appropriate “thank you’s” and follow up. Nobody likes an ask-hole!

Demonstrate value

Speaking of motivation, in most circumstances, there’s got to be some kind of reason why a potential connection will accept your LinkedIn invite or answer your email. 

Do you have mutual connections? Are there interesting commonalities between your professions and the path you both took there? Do you have a potential opportunity that may be worth exploring? 

People want to connect with inspiring, talented, useful people - so it only makes sense that your initial outreach would demonstrate the value you bring, right?

Perhaps you met the person at a conference and something they said sparked a new idea in you for your business. Or maybe you read an article that you thought the person might find useful or interesting.

If you’re just starting out on your professional journey and reading this thinking “well what could I possibly offer Employee X at Salesforce or Hilton?” - don’t.

Because your knack for numbers and the tech industry or passion for delivering exceptional customer service could be exactly what this potential new contact is looking for. 

You never know what’s going on in a person’s life - professionally or personally - when you hit ‘Send’ on your InMail or connection request. But one thing’s for sure: if you demonstrate value and make it easy to understand why connecting is going to be beneficial for them, you’re much more likely to make an impression and land a new contact. 

Keep the fires burning

Unfortunately, many blossoming professional connections often die on the vine.

But it’s easy to see why.

Once the parties have joined each other’s network, it’s normally crickets. 

After pleasantries are exchanged, it’s radio silence.

There’s no conversation. No interaction. No potential.

And what good is that?

After all, LinkedIn is a social media platform, with the key word being social. 

In order to network effectively, you’ve got to take the time to build a legitimate relationship or connection with the people in your circle.

That means answering questions, interacting with posts, offering your expertise to discussions - and all the rest of it. It’s not going to happen on its own and without this sort of give and take between both parties, the ‘networking’ aspect is non-existent.

So here’s a challenge for you: take a few minutes every day to see what your community is up to. 

1. Comment on a news story in your feed and try to create some conversation. 

2. ‘Like’ a person’s job update and add a personalized congratulatory note (see: not those one-click, automated specials!)

3. Share someone’s latest blog post.

None of these actions take more than 60 seconds to complete, but their impact can be monumental. By keeping the fires burning with your connections, you’ll stay on their radar in the long run. 

What other advice would you offer new networkers? How do you make sure your connections turn into meaningful, productive business relationships? Let me know in the Comments below. If you’re looking for blog content or web copy for your small business, send me an email at mb@mattblackink.com and let’s chat! 

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