by ANN BROWN
You’ve been putting your networking skills to use. You’ve been attending social functions and doing follow ups, but nothing has resulted from your efforts. Maybe the problem is not the way you’re networking; maybe you’re networking with the wrong people.
“A sure sign that you are networking with the wrong people is that you are being ignored,” explains Chaz Pitts-Kyser, a career coach for young professionals and the author of the new book Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College. “Networking should be strategic, and given that it can be time-consuming. Instead of attempting to network with any and everybody, you should focus on reaching out to people who share your same professional interests, goals, or can help you in some way. Such people will be more likely to respond to your efforts, as opposed to people who are not sure exactly why you are reaching out to them given that you have little in common. When reaching out, be clear and concise about your reasons for wanting to connect.”
Networking should be a give-and-take situation. Both parties should benefit. If you aren’t seeing any benefits from your networking efforts, maybe you’re dealing with selfish networkers–people who only look to see how you can benefit them. “You are networking with the wrong people when they don’t look at win-win situations for those involved. It bugs me when I meet with someone who wants to pick my brain but they never ask how they might assist me. I might not have anything that I need from them but the fact that they ask speaks volumes,” offers Froswa’ Booker-Drew, author, Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last, a workbook for women on networking. “There was a lady who I’ve never met except through connecting on LinkedIn. She contacted me out of the blue to ask me if I could help her make connections in my city–I didn’t know her! She did not propose an opportunity for a mutually beneficial opportunity. If people are only looking at what you can do for them, that might be a clue that you need to find a new group to connect with! I’m grateful that most of my relationships are not like that! The best way to correct that behavior is use moments like the aforementioned as a reminder of your role in teaching others how you’d like to be treated. I find when I create the space for mutually beneficial relationships, people tend to do the same and follow suit.”
If this is the case, it’s time to move on. “Networking with the wrong people is a waste of time. Your growth depends on who you know and who can use what you know for mutual growth. Consider your return on time investment. If you cannot measure growth, it is time to find another network,” explains business coach Carol Sankar, owner, CSE.
So look for a new group to network with. “The only way to correct this is to deal with the mindset of limitation. Most people depend on familiarity to make a move when it comes to networking, hence, they remain in circles they already know,” says Sankar. “However, growth is developed in unfamiliar territory. We have to take the fear out of shaking new hands in going into elevated spaces, but it starts with what you think.”
Also, look at the networking signs you are putting out. They might be attracting the wrong group of people. “Even when done correctly, networking takes a while. So if you network with the ‘wrong,’ people, you can waste a lot of time on people who wouldn’t be able to help you, which is very dispiriting in a job search that is already emotionally draining,” says Carlota Zimmerman, of Carlota Worldwide. “Again, the best way to make sure you avoid wasting time is to identify your goals, and to be as precise and realistic as possible: what specific types of jobs at which companies are you looking for? Is your LinkedIn profile written from the POV of people in that industry? Is your LinkedIn profile relevant and helpful to your professional goals? Have you joined your various alumni and industry organizations? Do you have an elevator pitch that allows a stranger to understand what you’re looking for and why? So many people, unfortunately, think that networking is about trading business cards and connecting on LinkedIn, and then they don’t understand why they can’t create the opportunities they’re seeking, and they end up deciding that networking is just a waste of time.”
Lastly, have a networking goal in mind. What is the reason you are networking? Another indicator that you might need to network with a different set of people—or at least try to expand your network—is if nothing positive or beneficial comes as a result of your efforts,” explains Pitts-Kyser. “For example, if your goal is to get to the next level in your career, then your focus should be on networking with those people at a higher level than yourself, who are in a position to assist you. Solely reaching out to your peers in your industry isn’t likely to open that many doors.”
(This column was first written by Brown for the July 23, 2014 Network Journal)