If you had a nickel for every time someone told you that networking is important, you’d be rich. But even with all that extra money, your network would still be looking a little thin.
Why? Well, that’s what’s so frustrating! You’re trying to network like crazy, but you’re not seeing the results that you’re supposed to (e.g., people usually turn down your meeting requests or look for reasons to cut your conversation short).
Sound familiar? It’s time for a little self-diagnosis. If you see yourself among any of these descriptions, it’s time to change up your networking strategy—ASAP.
1.The Constant Communicator
You are so excited that your career role model has agreed to meet with you! Wow, you must send a thank you email! Then, tweet how cool and awesome she is! And of course, update your status on LinkedIn and Instagram and tag her! Oh, and email her back to set an exact time! And email her again to tell her you can meet other times as well! And to say thank you! And you’re sorry for sending so many emails at 2 AM, so you won’t write back until 8 AM! And it’s 8 AM, so you’re checking in as promised!
Reality check: You can be this excited on the inside (and even when you talk to your mom or your best friend), but you are seriously annoying—and potentially creeping out—your new contact. So, play it cool. And before you respond to anyone else, check out Muse career expert Sara McCord’s advice on continuing a conversation after someone writes you back on LinkedIn.
It’s OK to feel this excited, but it’s not OK to act this excited:
2. The Self-Absorbed New Contact
You can’t be afraid to put your best foot forward. How are you going to do that? Easy. By making sure the other person understands just how awesome you are by talking about yourself for as long as possible. Then, when the target looks like he’s about to make a break for it, ascertaining exactly who he’s connected to and where he could help you get a job—because this is about how he can help you.
If this is your approach to networking, I can’t help you.
Actually, I can. You should postpone all networking meetings until you’ve read enough articles to know why this is not the way to go (start here).
Confidence is good, coming off like this is not:
3. The Instant BFF
If you’ve ever watched The Millionaire Matchmaker, you know that Patti Stanger limits the eligible singles to a two-drink maximum on their date. This rule is helpful outside the world of Bravolebrities and should be mandatory for all initial networking meetings as well.
I get why it’s confusing: Really great networkers may turn their contacts into something more—into mentors or maybe even into friends they occasionally drink (more than two cocktails) with. However, you’d probably be embarrassed if your new contact played a word association game with your name, and came up with “tipsy.”
So, remember, these relationships don’t happen overnight. Acting like someone’s BFF won’t make it so, it will just seem like you’re not totally clear on what constitutes professional behavior. Be reasonable about how much you drink and what personal matters you discuss: It’s easier to loosen up a bit than it is to come back from acting inappropriately.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to put the glass down:
4. The Person Who Has Someplace Better to Be
You didn’t want to take this meeting. You said yes as a favor to someone or because you didn’t know how to turn the request down. And now, you and your new contact are engaged in really awkward conversation (or lack thereof).
You might think you’re a master of disguising how you truly feel, but odds are, the other person can tell. Translation: This networking meeting isn’t benefiting anyone. Yes, I applaud the fact that you’re trying to do a nice thing. But it would be even nicer not to waste this person’s time.
Skip the meeting if this is how you really feel about missing work to connect:
Truthfully, feeling like you can’t build or sustain professional contacts is no laughing matter. So, if any of these portrayals hit a little too close to home, it’s time to make a change. The good news? We’re here to help you become a networking pro.