As your career grows, so does your network. After all, over a few decades you’ve had the opportunity to meet many people. And you’ve likely built a number of professional relationships that are both valued and helpful. But there are still some things people get wrong throughout the process.
“People think that networking is just getting together with people and getting their business card,” says Kim Marie Branch-Pettid, owner and CEO of LeTip International Inc., an international networking group. “The issue is you need to build relationships.” Beyond the basics of relationship-building, the age of social media — not to mention the pandemic — have changed some of the norms around networking. If you’re not keeping up, you could find yourself actually weakening your network. Here are nine mistakes to avoid.
Mistake 1: Letting network lapse
Over the past year and a half, in-person conferences didn't happen. Some organizations switched to virtual meetings, but it’s hard to have a one-on-one networking conversation in a virtual setting with a group of other people. That just means you need to be more purposeful than ever about keeping in touch with your connections and making new ones, Branch-Pettid says.
Some midcareer professionals “think that they can come in and just listen to what's going on and not participate anymore,” she says. She recommends structured networking settings that regularly offer the opportunity to connect with new people. But it’s also important to keep reaching out to your existing network to cultivate relationships, even if you’re still physically distancing.
Mistake 2: Overlooking social media
Even if you dislike social media, it still plays an important role in networking, says executive and career transition coach John Tarnoff, founder of Reinvention Group LLC and author of Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career after 50. LinkedIn is a good place to make professional connections, connect to groups of others who have the same interests and showcase your expertise. It also acts as a way of organizing and accessing your contacts. Comment on other LinkedIn posts, share content, write your own thought leadership, and use the platform as a way to showcase your experience and expertise, Tarnoff says.
Mistake 3: Ignoring junior colleagues
As you get more senior in your career, your peers are likely moving up, too. Be sure to keep newer professionals in the ranks of your contacts, too, says Devora Zack, founder of leadership training firm, Only Connect Consulting Inc., and author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking (Second Edition). You may come across opportunities to connect more junior people with new opportunities. And younger colleagues may bring new approaches and ideas. Seek out additional junior contacts and look into multigenerational networking programs your employer or professional associations might have.