The Myths and Mistakes of Networking…and How to Break Them

By Brandon Vogel

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I don’t have a network. I give help; I don’t ask for it. My talents speak for themselves.

Forget these common myths when it comes to networking.

“You already have a great network; you just don’t realize it,” said Bruce Blackwell, managing partner of the Career Strategies Group. He discussed the three M’s of networking: myths, methods and messaging on the recent CLE webinar, “Successful Networking for Lawyers Who Hate Networking.”

The right (and wrong) way to network

Blackwell said the first step is to start with people you know. Look to your family, friends and colleagues.

The single biggest mistake is to network only with people who can hire you or introduce you to people who can, said Blackwell. “It produces a lot of disappointments.” He said that you shouldn’t  build your network with people whom you think can help you get ahead.

Typical responses to direct networking are indirect and vague responses such as “No, but if I hear of anything, ‘I’ll text you.’” Blackwell said that direct networking often fails because it involves asking for favors. “Networking isn’t just for when you are looking for a job,” said Blackwell.

The right way is indirect networking. Everyone knows someone who works at a company; it doesn’t matter what function or level. You want to build a chain starting with you and ending at your next boss. Go beyond the obvious. It produces jobs, he says.

He explained that indirect networking is not asking people if they know of jobs, but rather asking people if they know someone who works for a specific company or type of company. You are offering solutions, not asking for favors, he explained.

Success stories he mentioned included a high-end mechanic who helped get a customer a job in investment banking. “Who do you think owns these Porsches that I fix,” retorted the mechanic.

His example involved three links, a friend, a friend’s friend and the decision-maker. “It is very simple, not protracted,” said Blackwell. “Picture yourself at the hub of a wheel. The spokes are contacts.”

“It is not who you know,” he explained. “It is who you get to know…and who they know.”

Use social media to build your brand

Blackwell said LinkedIn is the single most important tool for networking and career development.

To be a LinkedIn pro, he suggested having a minimum of 500 contacts, as well as a great photo. Your value proposition must be in your headline, in addition to the “about” section.

Blackwell recommended that you start out with familiar faces and then extend your outreach with some forethought. Using a personalized note and a clear reason why you are interested in connecting go a long way.

Users should publish articles of relevance that are pure information, not plugs.

He cited Facebook as a distant second, but still useful. He said its audience is older now but has the widest reach. Facebook posts should have a lighter touch. Users should not post about politics, but instead work-related items to establish credibility and show the “professional personal” side.

Lastly, he said professional groups and associations remain the best and easiest way to network. He suggested members become active in their associations by writing articles, participating in panels and becoming known. Familiarity breeds comfort, he advised.

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