The 3 Most Costly Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Network like a Boss
If you ask any entrepreneur, "What's the most important thing you can do to grow your business?" They will likely say some iteration about growing your network.
This is a great piece of advice. When I first heard it, I latched onto it and dove head first into what I thought was networking. Turns out, as it usually does when you are a beginner, I really didn’t know what I was doing.
I threw myself into every event that interested me in the slightest amount. I went to events with my elevator pitch and my sparkly personality and I thought that's all I needed. To help you leapfrog over my mistakes, I've outlined some hard lessons learned.
I was more interested in conversations about who you were than sharing who I am and what I do.
We’ve all talked been in a situation where someone will not shut up about themselves. In fear of becoming a Tommy Talks-Too-Much, I completely went to the other side of the spectrum. I did not share anything about myself. It’s definitely important to have a keen interest in learning about other people. It's also important to recognize that by not highlighting your own skills you are doing a disservice to the person in front of you. You come with a great network of people as well. It's possible that although they may not need your services, you know someone that can help them. Solving someone's problem is the name of the game here. Ask probing, yet pointed questions to learn more about their business needs while still allowing them to express their ideas. Be present, and don’t be shy to ask any follow-up questions that pop into your noggin’ while you are listening.
Collect a bunch of business cards and leave them on the counter
The follow up is as important as the initial meeting. I always had good intentions to follow up within the week of the event and thennnnnn I found a million excuses not to. Sound familiar? I talked myself out of it because I thought I didn’t know the right thing to say. I didn’t know how I could offer value to someone I had just talked to.
Here are a couple of ways to add value without feeling like you are being annoying:
Send a quick email with a link to something they told you about. It can be personal or business-related. Keep it easy breezy and make sure your email doesn’t communicate any heavy expectations to respond to your email in a specific way (ie. book a strategy session, buy your e-book).
Send a easy, breezy email letting them know how nice it was to meet you at X event and ask if there is any way you can help. Provide an example of how you’d like to help. For example, offer to connect them to people you know in a certain area of business or offer to keep them in mind if you hear about a project in their realm.
Go to every. single. event
Woooo. This one is a doozy that can leave you returning home exhausted and spread too thin night after night.
I kept going to events non-stop because I believed that every event was THE event that I would meet my next business soulmate. If I didn’t go I would miss out on that meetup forever. I didn’t realize that’s how I viewed my attendance at networking events until I had to take a break. I took a whole month and said "NO" to all events. Even event that looked really, really interesting to me. Even events that were opportunities to support my fellow business buddies.
When I took that time, I realized my flawed way of thinking. Every single day there are an abundance of opportunities to meet new people. Missing one event will not ruin your entire career. In fact, 60% of the events I went to were kind of a flop.
Now that you can bypass some major networking mistakes, let me remind you that it is not all bad. Having a strong, amazing network can help you find work, sure. Having an amazing network of people you've chosen to surround yourself helps you feel a little less alone in this big ol' world.
It takes consistent effort to build a strong network but that shouldn’t stop you from building it a brick at a time. Be kind to yourself so you can show up with the best version of yourself. Be proud of the work you do and don’t hide yourself while you learn about others. Do the work by following up with your new contacts to ensure the time you invested in going to this event actually serves you. Let it go if you say something a little silly or you feel like you messed up an interaction. We’ve all been there and it won’t ruin your reputation so there’s no need to punish yourself in perpetuity.
Let me know the mistakes you made when you started networking.