Whether a friendship, romantic partner, or family member, maintaining a relationship requires mutual effort. People resent being taken advantage of or used solely for what they have to offer with little to no reciprocity. The same sentiment can be found in the realm of networking. If you approach networking with a selfish mindset, only considering what you can get for free, then you are networking incorrectly. While it may be difficult to know when it’s appropriate to ask for advice or favors, especially when you’re just starting out in your career field, here are 5 warning signs to show if you are neglecting your end of the bargain.
- Are you criticizing free advice?
Criticizing free advice is similar to a starving man throwing a perfectly good meal back in the giver’s face. If the advice you receive is nonapplicable to your situation, instead of criticizing, ask followup questions. Being argumentative makes you seem unappreciative and crass. Remember, there’s no faster way to burn bridges than poor manners and inappropriate behavior.
- Are you unprepared to make the most of a network connection’s time?
Be sure to prepare specific questions or scenarios when utilizing a network connection for advice. This is one way to prevent misdirected conversation. Similarly, when attending a networking event, take some time to think about why you are attending. Is it simply because you want to be in the presence of industry professionals, or would you like to build lasting relationship with people you can truly learn from, grow with, and form an alliance.
- Are you “pimping” out your network connection?
One of the most unprofessional things you can do is pass around your network connection’s information without their permission. Just as you wouldn’t use a reference who hasn’t consented for a job interview, don’t haphazardly hand out a connection’s contact. No one wants to receive unsolicited requests from individuals they do not know.
- Are you name dropping?
Similar to point number three, you can easily seem like a networking leech if you name drop who you know in casual conversation. While it may be nice, or even impressive at times, to have a working relationship with an industry leader, name dropping is superficial and provides very little depth.
- Are you “too busy” to help others?
Be sure to make time to help others. Only receiving when the moment is convenient for you not only stunts your personal growth and development as a mentor and leader, but also disengages you with the industry community at large. People should recognize you as an individual who has taken advice, grown from it, and demonstrated to others that they are now in the position to help. Pay it forward.
Keeping these 5 things in mind will help you form meaningful and lasting network connections.