Networking Etiquette: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Networking Etiquette: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid
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In the world of career transition, you constantly hear about networking! Why? Because it leverages the sincere desire people have to want to help. Not only does helping others make them feel good, it has the added benefit of strengthening their own professional networks.


When used as a tool to expand visibility into potential job opportunities, networking is very difficult to beat. Networking is so effective because it helps both sides – the employer and the job-seeker. It eases hiring difficulties by providing employers with a smaller, more targeted field of candidates. Job seekers, on the other hand, get inside knowledge about a desirable position of interest, often well before it is publicly advertised.


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Even within this sea of mutually beneficial goodwill, some still stumble in their efforts to network effectively. Alienating valuable contacts with poor behavior can not only burn bridges but scorch burn promising job opportunities, as well. This occurs frequently with job seekers who fail to appreciate the importance of the care and feeding of their network. Here are some of the most common offenses.


1. Being a leech. Networking is about more than what you want and need – it is a two-way street. Few things are more annoying than individuals who only hit you up when they need something. Avoid the appearance of neediness, and above all, don’t be appear to be selfish.


2. Lacking support for others. What have you done to help members of your network? For example, do you use LinkedIn to like, share, or repost content? Not only is this easy to do, but your contacts will see your active support of their efforts and be appreciative of your help in raising awareness of their professional goals. Routinely look for opportunities – small or large – to support someone in your network. Where networking is concerned, it is important to fill your “well” before you need to use it, and your network will be happy to reciprocate when the time comes.


3. Wasting their time. When you request to meet with a networking contact, either virtually or in person, are you prepared? Have you already done your own research and prepared thoughtful questions – not just rounded up materials easily found on Google or the company website – allowing you to maximize their time? Being prepared shows your appreciation and respect. Do not ask for the gift of their valuable time if you have not yet taken the time to reflect on how best to use it.


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4. Replacing networking with sales solicitation. LinkedIn is a tremendous networking tool that significantly stretches your ability to reach new contacts. However, it is more than a little irritating to accept a request to connect on the site, only to then immediately be asked to schedule a time to “discuss” a service or product. Don’t confuse this dubious practice with networking. When there is not even a cursory attempt at creating a relationship, there is no reason for the recipient to care about what is being sold.

5. Not saying “thank you.” It seems obvious that you should thank someone who has helped you in some way. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for freely given advice or support to be taken but not acknowledged. A heartfelt “thank you” not only expresses sincere appreciation but encourages the contact to support you even more going forward.


Networking takes a village of relationships, but those relationships need to be nurtured to be effective. That doesn’t mean you have to invite contacts to your birthday party, but they should, at minimum, get your support, preparedness, and gratitude when they do something to assist you. Remember, they want to help!


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About the Author

Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)
Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)

Cole served 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a wide range of command and staff assignments in the U.S. and overseas, with her last assignment as commanding officer, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific in Wahiawa, Hawaii. She joined MOAA in 2012.