This column idea comes from a workshop participant (thanks, Mike!) who asked for the most common networking mistakes made by job seekers. Here is my list of common mistakes and their remedies.
Mistake 1: Not having a strategy in mind before beginning. If you got up one day and started calling people, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re running without a strategy. The problem? You’ll soon run out of contacts and things to say — then what?
Mistake 2: Confusing the tool for the strategy. LinkedIn and Twitter are not strategies; rather, they are two of the many tools you can use to conduct your networking.
Mistake 3: Relying too much on an inner circle of friends and family. They tend to know the same people you do. You need to push yourself to reach beyond this tight circle.
Mistake 4: Treating all contacts equally. If your approach to each person is the same, you have not stopped to identify the various needs you have in your job search and who can fill each need.
Mistake 5: Asking too much, too vaguely, of networking contacts. If you are saying to your contacts, “Do you know of any open jobs?” you are asking too much, too vaguely. To gain the most help, you need to ask a better question, such as: “Who do you know in xyz company?”
Mistake 6: Saying, “I’m not good at this” or “I don’t have any contacts” as reasons not to network.
Mistake 7: Not thinking creatively enough or casting a broad enough net to meet the right people. When you want to talk with someone you don’t know, you must ask yourself, “How could I meet this person?” And then get going on answering the question.
Mistake 8: Not giving networking a chance to work. If you expect individual contacts to yield instant results, you will be disappointed.
Mistake 9: Not staying in touch with contacts.
Mistake 10: Not using broadcast e-mails to reach a community of contacts. A short note sent bcc to a number of contacts can be interspersed with more personal communications to keep everyone in the loop on your job search.
Mistake 11: Not realizing that your contacts have a stake in your success.
Mistake 12: Saying, “I’ll take anything.” In truth, you won’t. The better approach: Have a focus and communicate it clearly.
Mistake 13: Not following up on leads. If a lead doesn’t fit your focus, say so.
Mistake 14: Not presenting a “can do” attitude. Networking meetings are not therapy sessions.
Mistake 15: Not maintaining networks after getting a new job. When you get a new job, send everyone an e-mail to thank them and to offer your assistance in return.
Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.