Networking is hard work. It requires consistency, even when you’re in a secure position, strategizing and out-of-the-box thinking. For example, most people overlook one of the most important networking avenues we have: our families.
“Many young people don’t leverage their parents,” says Lorne Epstein, a D.C.-based recruiter, career counselor and author of You’re Hired. “Your parents are generally your biggest supporters," Epstein tells eFinancialCareers. "They’ve been working for 15, 20 or 30 years and they’ve got an incredible Rolodex.” And don’t forget about other close relatives such as uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents, he adds.
Moreover, networking also requires avoiding major gaffes by understanding the etiquette and following it strictly. According to recruiters we talked to, here are some major networking no's:
Being a taker
In networking, it is more blessed to give than to receive. Becoming an important resource to people in your network builds loyalty and enhances your reputation. “You want to create a reputation for yourself as someone who is valuable. You don’t want to have a reputation as someone who’s just taking. The focus should be on giving and contributing,” says Epstein.
The shotgun approach
A lot of people who go to large networking events suffer from fear – fear of not meeting everyone. Epstein says it is better to have a couple of meaningful conversations at these events than to have 10 superficial – and unproductive – conversations.
“When you go out, you’re not going to meet everyone,” he adds. “You will meet a handful of people. If you go to an event and there are so many people, don’t be intimidated by the networking event. Go with intent of just trying to talk to three or four people. If you find that you don’t like the person you’re talking to or they’re not interested in helping you, move on. You don’t have to be buddies with everybody.”
Asking for a job
“The ultimate goal of networking may perhaps be to find a job, but in actuality the goal is to gather information that may lead to a position and to build relationships in the process,” Louise Giordano, a Wilmington, N.C.-based career counselor tells eFinancialCareers. “Asking the contact to help you find a job is never appropriate. But asking these most important questions is a must: ‘Are there others within your industry with whom you feel I should speak? Can you provide their contact information? May I use your name?’“
Ignoring your network
Think of your network as a garden, says Greg Ambrose, president and owner of Catalyst Search, a Chicago area executive search firm. You have to water it constantly. “The first big mistake (many) financial executives make is not paying attention to their network when they don’t need it,” Ambrose tells eFinancialCareers. “Network on a consistent basis and grow the network. People who do that find periods of transition easier than those who do not.”
Neglecting your online reputation
What kind of information is out there about you on the Web? “Do a Google search and make sure there is nothing inappropriate or negative about you online,” David Janowsky, a manager and partner at Winter Wyman Financial Contracting, a Boston area staffing firm that specializes in accounting and finance employees, tells eFinancialCareers. ”Because people will [check you out] when you start networking.”