Networking Hall of Shame
Lately I've been the victim of some pretty pathetic networking. Networking is about sharing information and building trust and rapport, yet it seems that some people who want to network with me are doing just the opposite. Here are some of the most common offenses I have experienced.
1. Dropping the ball
Someone I have never met contacted me and asked if we could speak because she was interested in becoming a career coach and wanted to learn more about the profession. She said she could talk anytime it was convenient for me and we set up a time to speak. About an hour before the scheduled call I got an email from her telling me she couldn't make our appointment and could she reschedule. I sent her two alternative meeting times, but she never responded to me.
What they should have done: This networker should have followed up immediately, explaining why she had to cancel. She should have taken the initiative to reschedule and tried her best to honor that commitment.
2. Being inflexible
A former client sent me and his entire network a message via Plaxo asking for guidance on a professional question. I told him he could contact me between 2 and 5 p.m. that day, and we settled on 5 p.m. He emailed me at 4:30 p.m., saying it really wasn't convenient for him to talk on any day until after 6 p.m.
What they should have done: When you reach out to someone for help, your schedule is secondary. Do everything in your power to work around the schedule that is convenient for the person offering the help.
3. Not respecting my time
An acquaintance asked for some pro bono job-search advice, and we set up a time to meet. He called me the morning of, requesting to push the appointment back 45 minutes.
What they should have done: When someone offers to meet with you and offer their advice or expertise, be on time -- no ifs, ands or buts.
4. Being lazy
A person I have never met who has worked at the same company I once worked for sent me a canned LinkedIn invitation that read "Since you are a person I know and trust, I would like to connect with you."
What they should have done: Ditch the template invitations and get personal. Explain why you think the person you are reaching out to should connect with you. Be gracious and authentic, and you will find that many people will be willing to help you.
5. Being pushy
A colleague of mine who is in sales asked me to introduce her to a decision-maker at a professional association event. She then proceeded to pitch her company's products and services as soon as she started shaking the person's hand.
What they should have done: Before you start peddling your wares, get to know the person you are talking to. People like to do business with people they trust, not people who wear them down.
6. Taking advantage of the relationship
A client asked me to introduce her to one of my colleagues from a previous employer. After the introduction was made, I never heard from the client again until 18 months later, when she lost the contact information for the colleague and wanted me to supply it again.
What they should have done: Nurture your network. Take a genuine interest in them when you don't need a favor. They are much more likely to help you later on when you do.
7. Taking too much of my time
A referral from a professional organization asked to speak to me for advice on making a career transition into a role as a human resources practitioner (my former profession). She asked for a few minutes by phone ... and took 45.
What they should have done: Ask for a 10-20 minute conversation and then be the timekeeper. Don't extend the meeting past the allocated time unless the other person continues to engage you in the conversation. By being respectful of the other person's time, you increase the likelihood of securing future meetings or introductions to their network.
8. Being presumptuous
Someone I have never met contacted me through LinkedIn and asked me if we could meet in Central Park to chat about her career transition. I opted for a phone call instead.
What they should have done: Don't come on too strong. Understand that there is an appropriate distance between you and the person you are trying to network with at the beginning. The relationship will grow stronger once the trust is solidified.
Don't get caught in the networking hall of shame. People want to help; but you need to network on their terms and be respectful of their time. Gotta run ... my appointment (the one who pushed the meeting back by 45 minutes) is waiting for me in the lobby!