Have you ever had the feeling that you're not networking correctly? You might be making one of these notorious networking mistakes. They're some of the most common ways people undermine themselves while networking:

  1. Networking in ways that don't work for you
  2. Networking only for today
  3. Forgetting that networking is a two-way street

Read on to see if you're making these mistakes and, if you are, how you can correct them.

Mistake No. 1: Networking in ways that don't work for you 

Susan is one of the best networkers I know. She's endlessly curious and supremely extroverted. Her life consists of back-to-back meetings in which she constantly makes connections. She's amazingly successful. But not everyone can be Susan.

Mal is another fantastic networker. He's also curious, but he's very introverted. He gets overwhelmed by a lot of meetings and by large groups. So he finds other ways to connect. He's on an association committee, he mentors younger staff in his company, and he's active in communities of practice related to his interests. Not everyone can be Mal either.

The trick is finding the ways that work for you. If you don't, you're likely to become cranky and less than your best. You probably won't meet your expectations and will get discouraged. Too often, people get caught in this cycle and abandon networking practices. Don't do this. Instead of trying to be some idealized networker, be yourself. Use ways that work for you.

Mistake No. 2: Networking only for today

Caryn was a top-notch executive. Almost single-handedly, she kept her division running. She had a depth of knowledge about the organization, and she connected with everyone she needed to in order to make things run smoothly. However, when the divisional VP retired, he didn't choose Caryn as his successor. He chose Bob, who wasn't nearly as accomplished as Caryn, but who had developed a strong relationship with the boss on the golf course.

Caryn fell into a common trap. She focused so much on the daily needs of her department that she forgot to think about the future. She neglected the strategy of relationship building in favor of operations. She suffered for it.

I've heard more stories than I can count about how people neglected long-term, strategic relationships in favor of getting things done. A better approach is to nurture the relationships you need today and tomorrow so you're not stuck, like Caryn, when change happens.

Mistake No. 3: Forgetting that networking is a two-way street

I received an email recently from a dear colleague from graduate school, whom I'll call Rebecca. I had tried to keep up with her after we graduated, but she was usually too busy to connect. When I saw Rebecca's name in my inbox last week, I smiled. Then I opened the email. She had, at least, used my name in the salutation. But the rest was a form letter asking me to help assess her new product. I was hurt. This is how my friend reaches out to me after five years of silence? I'm not excited about helping her out and probably won't.

This is an incredibly common mistake that people make while networking and a corollary to Mistake No. 2. We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day work that we forget to keep up with people.

Get yourself out of that trap right now. Here's what to do:

  1. Write down the names of 10 people you think will be important to your future. They might help you imagine where you want to be in five years, give you referrals, mentor you, advise you, partner with you, or serve on your core team when you launch a new initiative.
  2. Now figure out one little way you can do something for each of those people. Do they love chocolate? Send them a bar of your favorite. (They won't mind.) Are they avid World Cup fans? Share an infographic about who would win if World Cup teams competed outside the soccer field. Do they want to practice their speaking skills? Invite them to present at your next team meeting.

Then keep it up! Whip out that list every month and make sure you're keeping up.

Published on: Oct 10, 2014