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Many experienced people, including marketers (who should know better), are ill-equipped to succeed at job networking for new opportunities. It’s scary. And it’s a frequent enough situation that it is easy to list these seven proven ways to screw up job networking calls, along with corresponding tips to improve your performance.

7 Proven Ways to Screw Up Networking Calls

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Screw up #1: Refusing to be conversational

I may call initially based on someone else’s description of what you’re seeking. After taking the initiative to call, introduce myself, and state that so-and-so asked me to contact you, it would be nice if you were prepared to say “thank you,” exchange a pleasantry, and share your call objective. Too many individuals act as if they’re being disturbed or don’t understand why I’m on the phone. It’s taken three attempts on some occasions to turn it into a two-way conversation. Work with me people!

Job Networking Tip: Be ready to talk!

Screw up #2: An inability to quickly set the stage

Have an elevator speech – describe your background, aspirations, and goals in two paragraphs. I’ll spend time with someone I am familiar with to probe and seek more clarity about their options. With a stranger, that’s more difficult. It would be nice if you’ve done it in advance.

Job Networking Tip: Know your interests and prepare to share them!

Screw up #3: Adopting an overly casual attitude toward the call

It’s amazing how casual people are on the phone with total strangers.  A woman once recounted her intense interest in transportation, the industry in which I was working. To make her point, she said a fully-loaded rail car was like “pornography” to her. Huh? Instantly, she went from a potential referral to a curiosity – wondering what other inappropriate things she might say.  Even if I’m not hiring, you want an introduction to someone who might be. That means it’s an interview. Act like it!

Job Networking Tip:  Conduct yourself as if it’s a job interview!

Screw up #4: Thinking this is a one-sided conversation

I go into calls expecting to offer information, ideas, or referrals that might be of assistance. It would be great if you shared that attitude. Even if you think your near-term need for opportunities is greater, I also appreciate information, ideas, and suggestions for people to meet. A two-way exchange will earn you follow-up conversations.

Job Networking Tip: Offer something of value to the other person!

Screw up #5: Expect the other person to do your heavy (and light) lifting

I received an email from someone unknown to me seeking senior marketing candidates. After forwarding the email to Clarence (not his real name) who I’d met for a networking lunch, he responded in a stern tone that the employer’s email address was wrong, asking me to get the right one. All this, even though I had to use the same resources available to him (ever heard of The Google?) to track it down. Clarence also asked me to send him direct phone numbers for other people rather than calling himself to get them. Remind me – who is looking for work here?

Job Networking Tip: Do some work yourself!

Screw up #6: Make dealing with you as cumbersome as possible

An unsolicited email arrived from someone (call him “Clarence #2”) who had been referred by a business acquaintance I hardly know. The email included two separate Word documents. Having to open both (shortening review time), I quickly closed them since a mild virus was attached (eliminating all review time).  When Clarence #2 called, he presumed I’d fully read the resume and asked what questions I had about him, followed by silence (precluding meaningful dialogue).  Important tip – presume I haven’t given a complete stranger’s resume a lot of time; help refresh me.  When later referring him to associates, I created a single PDF of his documents (he couldn’t create PDFs) to spare them the virus (robbing time from pre-selling him).  Clarence #2 could have gotten more valuable help if he’d saved me all this wasted time.

Job Networking Tip: Find EVERY way to make it easy for someone else to help you!

Screw up #7: Answering someone’s help by going silent

Maybe there’s a reason you’re looking for a job since follow-up is also typically spotty. Remember:

  • If I send information or make referrals, let me know if they’re beneficial.
  • If we set an appointment, do everything to keep it. When you cancel multiple times, don’t expect much future energy from me on getting together.
  • If I invite you into LinkedIn and offer to make connections, include a message for the ultimate target that explains why you want to network. Don’t expect me to compose a message explaining why they should spend time with you.

Job Networking Tip: Follow-up with someone that helps you!

These are basics any senior person (especially marketers) should know. Invariably, people trip on several of them.

If you’re intent on screwing up your career strategy while networking, I’ll try to help stop you, but don’t expect me to take a bullet for you while trying to wrestle your own gun from your hands! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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