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Professional Networking: You Might Be A Bad Networker If
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Professional Networking: You Might Be A Bad Networker If - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: You Might Be A Bad Networker If

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: You Might Be A Bad Networker If

As we have discussed many times, networking is not about exchanging as many business cards as you can in thirty minutes over drinks; nor is it about amassing a contact list of well-connected friends who might introduce you to prominent business, media, and political figures. Networking is about forming and maintaining relationships, something that doesn’t need to be spelled out for people who are already good at it. The problem is that people who are bad at networking don’t seem to have the first clue that they are, and so they continue in their misconceptions, poisoning their networks with bad vibes and aftertaste, never bothering to read articles about bad networking. Still, on the off chance that you are unaware of your bad networking, here are a few symptoms that might tell the tale.

If your outbox is loaded with requests for introductions, references, tickets to events, advice, and other favors, but you have to dig four years deep to find one in which you offer unsolicited favors to someone else, you might be a bad networker. There’s something leachy about the person who takes advantage of well-connected friends but only reaches out when he or she needs something, and if you’re the leach, don’t think people in your network aren’t aware. It’s clear to them, as it should now be clear to you, that you care about your relationships with them only as far as they are of use to you.

If, in response to requests for favors, you receive email replies written in passive-aggressive code, you might be a bad networker. Passive aggression varies by degree, from the overt “It’s so nice to hear from you; I don’t believe we’ve traded emails since the last time you asked me for something” to the much politer “It’s been a long time since we’ve caught up—how are you?” Unfortunately, you’re not self-aware enough to recognize the code, so if you have a suspicion that you might be a bad networker, ask a trusted coworker, one who’s better at reading social cues in email, for an opinion.

If you know where everyone works but don’t know how anyone is, you might be a bad networker. We all get caught up in the unending, urgent pace of our work lives. There’s barely enough time to get up to go to the bathroom sometimes, so how can you be expected to take a few minutes here and there to see how people are doing? Yet people, many of them just as busy as you, find a way. They see an article in the paper that reminds them of you, so they pass along the link and ask how things are going. Or they pass each other in the crosswalk, turn around and walk back, catch up with each other, and then ask what you’re up to. You might not be aware of it, but people know how you’re doing, even if you haven’t taken the time to ask how they’re doing.

If you haven’t received a thank-you note in quite some time and you can’t remember the last time you wrote one, you might be a bad networker. In these days of instant communication and constant connection, a hand-written thank-you note is almost an anachronism. This is exactly why you should send them. A heartfelt, sincere gesture of thanks expressed in a few words is like an energy drink injected right into the veins of good relationships. It’s even better if you can add a few boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to the note, but keep in mind that the note is the big deal. Once you start looking for someone to be grateful to, you find yourself being more grateful to more people, a trend that results in better relationships and even more gratitude. It can be a difficult thing to start doing, but reserve half an hour of your morning, perhaps as the end-note to your early email routine, for writing one thank-you note per day. And if at first you don’t know when you should say thank you, just remember that your mother’s words are as true today as they were a long time ago: always say thank you!

If you recognize yourself in some parts of this list, it’s important to ask yourself if these are symptoms of a me-first approach to professional networking or if they are merely bad habits and clueless behavior. If they are symptoms, most of the advice offered here will be of little value to you, as long as you’re getting what you need from your network. If they are bad habits, they misrepresent who you are and what you care about, so righting the path is a matter of addressing your relationships and your role in keeping them healthy. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and embrace the latter. You have a lot to offer, and your network is better when you offer it.

 

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Professional Networking: You Might Be A Bad Networker If - Executive Leadership Articles

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