No denying, networking is one of the best tools a professional has at his or her disposal. Whether you connect at an industry conference or online, having professional connections can be an invaluable resource.
Of course it requires some maintenance. And sometimes folks make missteps.
It happens to the best of us, reminds a new survey by Robert Half International. Robert Half asked managers to offer up their biggest networking mistakes.
Take a look at the four that have tripped up your peers, along with tips to keep you from following in their footsteps.
Mistake 1: They don’t ask for help when they need it
Ask not what you can do for your network but what your network can do for you!
That’s one of the biggest benefits of having a group of trusted professionals in your circle: You can call on them when facing a problem.
Unfortunately that’s the No. 1 place managers come up short when it comes to their networks. They don’t seek out the counsel of their network. Nearly half (42%) of managers said they’ve failed to ask from help from the people in their network.
You don’t have to put it out to everyone you’ve ever met professionally when you have a challenge in front of you. But think about the folks you know who might be most insightful with your specific problem.
Bouncing ideas off a trusted member of your network doesn’t undermine your authority or expertise – it enhances it because you recognize no one can go it alone all the time. A great leader surrounds him or herself with good people.
Plus, often that person from your network may be less close to an issue than a co-worker at your office would be, which brings good perspective.
Of course remind them you’d happily do the same for them sometime.
Mistake 2: They don’t keep in touch with their contacts
So you take the time to reach out to someone at a conference or meeting and make a connection. Contact information is exchanged … only to lose touch a few months later.
It’s happened to more than a quarter (28%) of your peers, says Robert Half.
There’s a relatively painless solution to avoid this misstep: Schedule time to stay in touch.
It may seem contrived at first – putting it on your calendar to be in contact with a member of your professional network. But everyone’s so busy these days that may be one of the only ways to keep a network alive.
Social networking makes this easier now. If your contacts post on LinkedIn it’s easy to respond to that. Or if you’re uncomfortable sounding off in such a public forum, you can at least use that post as a jumping off point to contact in a more private message.
Mistake 3: Not thanking people for their help
Everybody wants to feel appreciated. And if a member of your network takes the time to help you, a thank you is definitely in order. However, 17% of managers say they’ve dropped the ball on this front.
It doesn’t have to spell doom for the relationship. Whenever you realize you failed to thank someone, do it then, even if it’s well after the fact. It will still be appreciated.
The best way to avoid similar issues again: Do it right away, whether that means firing off an email or handwriting a note (hint: keep stationary in your desk so you don’t need to hunt around for some).
Waiting to thank someone for an assist or an opinion greatly increases the chance it will slip your mind.
Mistake 4: Not providing help when others need it
Of course you wouldn’t intentionally blow off a request for help from someone in your network.
But people get busy, emails get missed and now and then you may miss the opportunity to thank someone who offered advice.
It’s happened to 7% of other managers. If you discover this has happened to you, an honest apology and a sincere pledge to be more responsive in the future is your best bet.