Maintaining and building a professional network is essential for any person who has been in the professional field for some time. Having a strong professional network can help you tremendously along the way as it gives you an edge over the other candidates in the same field as yours. When you have a strong professional network to depend on, you can be sure that whenever there is a job opening in the related field, you will get informed by the contacts from your network.
Applying to a job through your professional network improves your chances of getting the job as most of these jobs are not even advertised by the companies openly and the only way you get to know about these job openings is via internal contacts.
Who Should Be In Your Professional Network?
There is no hard and fast rule to decide who should be added to your professional network and who should be excluded. While it is commonly believed that the more people are in your professional network, the better it is for your career.
This approach is not necessarily right as it is more important to maintain the standard of your network by making sure that all the significant people who you have worked with are included in this group. Your old colleagues and superiors, who have worked with you closely in the past are definitely an asset to your network as they know your strengths and weaknesses and can better recommend you for a job opening.
Common Networking Mistakes To Be Avoided:
There are many common mistakes that can ruin the professional network and your chances of career advancement through this channel. Some of these mistakes are:
The most common mistake is waiting too long to start networking. Many people start networking when they lose their jobs and are looking for another option. To be effective in professional networking one has to create contacts and relationships while you are working within an organization, not after you have left.
Networking events play a very important role in making sure that you get in touch with the right contacts. However when you go there, you should know why you are participating and what you hope to gain from the experience. If some starts a conversation you need to know what to say and what you want to gain otherwise you might just end up losing a golden opportunity to establish contacts.
Unprofessional Email ID:
Establishing contacts and maintaining them is all dependant on using an Email ID. Using an email ID that is unprofessional and does not include your name can give the impression of a non-serious attitude. For instance, using “unemployed.mba@” as an email ID for professional networking is not a good idea. Instead use an email ID with your name for professional purposes.
Wasting other’s Time:
When you are talking to a person on phone or chatting online with a contact, do not engage in useless conversation and waste his valuable time. Be precise and to the point, as the other person will appreciate your brevity. Similarly do not stick to one contact for a long time at a networking event as people are there to meet as many people as they can within a limited time frame. So use this opportunity to mingle and strengthen your network.
Treating Contacts as Temporary Assets:
When you have successfully created a network for yourself, make sure that you maintain the contacts and interact with them occasionally. This will make them feel valued and they will be willing to help you in future endeavors as well. Never fail to send a thank you note when a contact has helped you out and always send replies to emails. Failing to reply to the emails and ignoring basic etiquettes such as sending a thank you note are not only in bad taste but also have a negative impact on your professional network.
Lying is the worst thing that can lead your entire professional network to crumble. If you lie to one person on your network, it will find its way throughout the group and sooner or later you will be exposed. Keep in mind, having a good reputation is essential in any professional field and once you ruin your reputation it will be very hard to make amends.
While it is understandable that you do not wish to appear naïve or a newbie but you need to understand the difference between a confident person and someone who is just bragging and showing off to impress others. You can mention your expertise and achievements when it is appropriate or when the other person asks you about your work and experience. Even then, you should have a brief answer prepared so that the other person can retain the useful information and pass it on when needed. If you start ranting about the things you have done, it is highly possible that by the time you stop talking, the other person might not remember a single word you have said.
Dressing poorly for an event:
If you are going to a networking event, make sure that you look professional and presentable. While it is not a formal event, many professionals consider this an important event towards future job opportunities. If you look like a person who is not even interested in dressing properly and shaving for a networking event, there is a high chance that you will be ignored by most of the employers. So it is up to you whether you take this opportunity or let it fall.
The worst mistake ever in professional networking is having a passive approach towards maintain contacts and asking for job openings. By being inactive you are missing out on golden opportunities, as they will not be able to inform you of a job opening that might be perfect for you. Keep asking for job postings and take their advice on professional matter but make sure that you are proactive in approach rather than start nagging the other person.