Working a room can uncover hidden job opportunities at the executive level, as long as professionals avoid some common networking errors.
Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, points out that networking mistakes are easy to make, especially for those who are out of practice.
"Failing to keep an active network can hinder your employment prospects if you suddenly find yourself in the job market with no contacts or references," McDonald said. "It's far easier for people to find work when they have established connections."
McDonald outlines several common networking mistakes and tips to avoid them:
Assigning staff members to attend most industry events. If you delegate this responsibility entirely, you risk missing out on valuable networking opportunities. Make an appearance at professional association meetings whenever possible.
Skipping the networking reception preceding a business function. Arrive early to mingle with other guests or the speaker before the program begins. Scan the sign-in sheet to see who's arrived, then seek the people you want to meet.
Limiting your circle of contacts. Expand your network to include professionals at varying experience levels, not just your peers. Look outside your industry for potential contacts. You never know who might have the right
Overlooking new venues. Networking isn't just for business occasions. Make an effort to meet at least three new contacts at social gatherings such as sporting events or holiday parties, and always carry business cards with you.
Having a hidden agenda. Be up-front if you're looking for assistance in your job search, and be prepared with a 15-second sales pitch. Others will appreciate your candour and be better able to help you.
Being overly aggressive. While it's important to communicate regularly with people in your network, avoid becoming a disruption.
Failing to write down pertinent information. After meeting a new contact and exchanging business cards, jot down a few notes about your conversation on the back of the person's card to jog your memory later.
Lacking appreciation. Always let people know you value their help. A simple thank-you note or e-mail is appropriate.
Giving up. Even if those you meet aren't able to help you, maintaining your network and your positive attitude ultimately will lead to new opportunities.
McDonald noted that networking with colleagues has the added benefit of creating new business opportunities. "Even if you're not in the job market, staying in touch with others in your industry provides a chance to brainstorm strategies and share best practices for remaining competitive."
David King, Robert Half Management Resources regional manager, added, "Networking should be practiced consistently throughout one's career. Those who maintain professional relationships and help others will find their contacts are more willing to return the favour."
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