Careers advice: How not to network

24 May 2017

In our latest careers blog WBS Careers Manager Lisa Carr offers advice on how to master the art of networking.

How not to network

With so much emphasis on the niceties of networking etiquette, it’s easy to overlook the basics. As we launch this month’s networking lesson on the WBS Career Management course, Lisa Carr from our alumni careers team highlights the most common networking mistakes.

Starting with your pitch

We have all met the guy who asks for a referral or hands you his company’s price list during your initial introduction. Overt selling at networking events is a real turn off. As Heather Townsend, author of the FT Guide to Business Networking says in our online course “ Effective business networking is a process of finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships – it’s not about selling yourself.”

Asking for favours

Asking for too much too soon is one of the biggest pitfalls when networking. No-one is going to refer you until they know you are competent and trustworthy as their own reputation is at stake. You need to build a relationship first. Beware of coming across as insensitive or pushy. Asking your brand new contact for some quick business advice over coffee is fine; asking them for an internship for your daughter is not.

Attaching your CV

Don’t send your CV in an introductory email – wait until your contact requests it. Most people interpret an emailed CV as a request for a job. At worst it will be viewed as spam, at best as premature. Start a conversation or request an initial chat first, then when your contact requests your CV you know they are genuinely interested and you can tailor it to the opportunity.

Targeting the CEO

Occasionally, approaching the CEO of your dream employer or client directly can pay off. Usually it will just irritate and you may come across as lazy or lacking in business nous. Better to forge a network of contacts with people at a similar professional level who can refer you upwards. Or target the person with operational responsibility for your area, who can actually hire you.

Picking the wrong time

It’s possible to be the right person at the wrong time. You need to pick your moment carefully. Asking your Head of Department for a chat about career opportunities the week she returns from maternity leave is unlikely to get you far. Avoid reaching out at times of peak workload or personal events. Let the dust settle before approaching contacts following reorganisations and job moves.

Making snap judgements

Think twice before dismissing a new contact as too junior to help your career or in the wrong job function. That person might have excellent internal contacts or useful organisational insights.  Perhaps they are a personal friend or neighbour of an important contact. And don’t assume the scruffy young guy who turns up at the networking event in cycling gear is a student; he might just be the CEO of the new FinTech firm you have identified as a potential client.

Being unprepared

There is nothing worse than having a fleeting conversation with an important contact and missing the opportunity to make a good impression. It is essential to have your elevator pitch ready – see our lesson on Marketing Yourself  for tips. Beware Linking In with a new contact until you are happy with your Profile. Connecting with you only to be greeted by an old graduation photo, details of your last-job-but-one and three lines of text is not going to impress.

Offending someone

Forgetting the name of someone you have previously met or greeting an important manager in your organisation with “So, what do you do?” can be mortifying. Avoid embarrassment by getting hold of an attendance list for networking events beforehand so you can research and recognise potential contacts.Avoid cultural faux pas by checking out networking etiquette in the Country Careers Guides at Going Global or by following the intercultural networking tips contained in our careers module.