The Networking Mistakes You Should Stop Making
The best part about blogging (for me) has been being able to inspire others by sharing what I’m going through – and getting to connect with people I otherwise never would have met. I can’t stand small talk but love getting to really know people.
I love when readers message me to say hi or share how something I wrote resonated with them. And I do like giving advice because I want to help. But then there’s the other side of it – at least for bloggers. Getting questions to “pick your brain” about how to start a blog and grow a website. Between email and social media, you can access almost anyone online.
Most humans like helping others because it’s in our nature to do so, but there’s a right and wrong way to reach out to someone. Let’s discuss.
Know who you’re messaging
And how to spell their name. And the name of their company. Do some research that shows you really get them and are interested in them / their story.Want to know how someone got their start? See if they’ve shared their story somewhere or check out their work history on Linkedin. A month or so ago, I had an interview with a college student and I was so impressed with the research she had done. She went into the interview knowing what had been previously answered online, and one question she said she couldn’t find the answer to (it actually wasn’t online) but she tried. Impressive.
It doesn’t happen often, but we’ll get an occasional message from someone who really loves The Everyday or even better – The Everything Girl. Do you…really? You can’t claim to be a “huge fan” of a site you don’t know the name of, right? This goes for any small business.
Get to know someone before asking for something
I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve made through blogging and instagram. There are a number of people I’ve never met that could tell me they wanted to hop on a call or meet during a weekend trip to Chicago that I’d make the time for because we’ve gotten to know each other. So rather than just reaching out asking for something, invest some time in the person you want to network with.
Until you’ve formed a relationship with someone, you should not ask to meet for coffee.
A few months ago, I moderated a panel and when asked about networking tips, the first piece of advice I shared without skipping a beat was to stop asking people to meet for coffee. My friend Jess wrote a more in-depth post about this, but here’s the deal.
This question used to really stress me out because like I said, I love helping people but I also never have time to do anything. There are friends I haven’t seen in way too long, and if I’m going to take the time to connect in person, it should be with one of them. Asking someone to take an hour or two out of their day is a big ask when they don’t know you, so my advice is get to know them first before asking to meet.
I have learned to say no to this one without feeling guilty, but always offer to answer questions over email because I do want to help.
Put yourself in (new) social situations
Put yourself in settings where you might meet new people both personally and professionally. Join a networking group or a young professional board (I’m on the board at PAWS). Go to things you wouldn’t normally go to.
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to help one of my friends, and I’ve met them all in some pretty random settings (facebook, blogging, instagram, co-working spaces, a friend’s wedding etc.).
Maintain your personal brand and stay active on social media
While I understand that this doesn’t apply to a number of fields, chances are there’s someone in your city or industry you’re following on social media. Keep your linkedin, instagram, and other profiles relevant. Stay active. Comment and message. It’s such a great way to (authentically) get to know someone. And I can tell you that at least for me, there are dozens of people I have great relationships with that I’ve never met who I would gladly help out just because we follow each other.