Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Networking No No's: What NOT to Do when You Network

I usually, I write about freelancing issues. After all, this blog is about the BUSINESS of freelancing. However, I've decided to start devoting one post a week to full-time career issues, as I've been peppered since the beginning of the year with these types of questions.

Y. Black, Publisher

NOTE: The following advice can be used if you are promoting yourself as a potential employee, or if you're networking as a business owner.


If you're serious about building a business, or landing a new job, networking can help you reach your goal faster than any other form of marketing or advertising.

Following are three things you should not do when you are networking. Remember, you are building relationships that can, ostensibly, pay off for years to come. Don't ruin it by doing the following:

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1. Represent the "right" business (or career aspiration): What I mean is, don't introduce yourself under one business and network under another. Or, if you're seeking a full-time position, talk about your side business Let me explain.

I belong to two chambers of commerce in my area. Chambers of Commerce, by the way, are excellent venues for networking. Want to know more, click here.

Many times, I've been at a networking event and someone will approach me with their "side" business, eg, I work for XYZ corporation, but I have an event planning company I want to talk to you about.

This is unprofessional, for a couple of reasons: i) it's unethical. If your company has paid for you to be a member of a chamber, don't promote your side business on their dime. Join the chamber under your own company name.

If you're networking to land a new position, tell the Chamber representative that. Ask if you can come as a one-time guest. Or, find a member who will bring you along as their guest and introduce yourself as a professional looking for a new position.

Not only will your company benefit from the advertising the chamber does for members (eg, mailings, website listing and e-mail blasts); ii) it shows that you are serious about growing this side venture.

I often wonder if I will get paid if I do work for a company that doesn't have enough leadership to recognize the above-mentioned points.

2. Give Before Receiving: Networking is a slow build. It's rare that you will get immediate business from this type of marketing. Find out how you can become a resource for members - eg, recommend others who may be great contacts for businesses in the group; start a referral newsletter; pass along other networking opportunities.

Nine times out of 10, most of the people you meet at networking functions are there to sell something. Everyone knows this. BUT, if you are constantly asking for business, without giving leads to others, you will become known as a taker.

Karma works in all aspects of life. What you give comes back to you; so instead of being on the lookout for those who can help you, look for ways you can give to the group. Even if the majority of leads you pass out never work out, people remember those who take the time to give them leads or recommend the services of others.

3. Don't Be a Pest: I've met some extremely aggressive people in my networking circles. And, I cut them a wide berth. If you approach someone and they are not interested in hiring you as an employee (or express an interest in your product/service), stay in contact, but unobtrusively so.

Don't continue to call when they've clearly "brushed you off" a few times. That's why I like newsletters; they allow you to stay in touch without being a pest.

Don't publish a newsletter? Try passing along "Business Tips of the Day;" "Sales Tip of the Day;" or a "Community Events at a Glance" calendar.

In the case of job hunting, a brief touch-base email or phone call every few weeks will suffice.

All of these are viable, unobtrusive ways to keep your business top-of-mind - for the right reasons.

The fact is, depending on your profession and/or business, there will be very few people you actually meet while networking who can give you business (or hire you) directly. BUT, you're really building a line of trust so that when they "know someone who knows someone" who needs your product/service, you will be the first one they think of.
Copyright Notice: May be reprinted with the following, in full: Yuwanda Black is the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com: THE business portal for and about the editorial and creative industries. First-hand freelance success stories, e-courses, job postings, resume tips, advice on the business of freelancing, and more! Launch a Profitable Freelance Writing Career in 30 Days or Less -- Guaranteed! Log on to InkwellEditorial.com to learn how.
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