Networking is an important part of developing a career, and building your business. About 85% of positions are filled via networking. However, there are ways to network correctly, and there are ways to turn people away.

Among the gluttony of books, blogs, videos and motivational speeches about how to network and be your best self, two resounding messages prevail.

  1. Be genuine
  2. Be helpful

The goal of networking is to make meaningful connections. The connection is supposed to be mutually beneficial. While you might make a connection initially to help yourself, once you are part of the network, there is an expectation that you will also provide to others in the network. If you fail to make a meaningful contribution, or if your intentions are disingenuous, it is likely that your connections will wither and you will be on your own.

Networking is more than just looking for your assets, it is about making meaningful connections and then providing help when your connections need aid. You do this by participating in industry conversations, sharing knowledge and reaching out to others when they clearly need the support that you can provide. Networking is important for individuals and businesses because you are more likely to be in a position to succeed or fall into a safety net if things go very wrong.

So let’s take a look at what not to do, so that you’ll know how to get networking right and avoid the many mistakes that make networking seem so hard.

1. Only Networking When You Need Work

An effective way of ruining a potential connection for your network is reaching out only when you need a job or to boost your business. High-quality connections will see your desperation and low-quality contacts might take advantage of you. Finding fast solutions to meet your immediate needs is not a good reason to start networking.

2. Connecting with Someone Only to Ask a Favor

Making a new connection and then immediately asking for a favour shows that you are needy. The goal of networking is to build relationships, not ask for favours. To establish meaningful, strong relationships based on genuine motives, research and reach out to those people who interest you, people you’d like to know and have authentic conversation with. If your willingness to connect with others has ulterior motives, you have either failed at research or are not willing to put in the effort to create meaningful connections.

3. Not Offering to Help

You can easily destroy your networking efforts by refusing to offer your connections when they ask for help. Brushing people off is a rejection and it leads to bitter feelings. If you are not in a position to provide answers or support when a request is made, you owe it to your relationship to reply, even with a ‘no’.

4. Not Following Up

Your networking connections are not your friends – you cannot expect that a missed reply or a few months of silence when you are busy will go over with a simple explanation. You need to have conversations, chat with those in your network, share content online and make comments or click ‘likes’ to remain relevant to your community. If you are a business, you can make replying to your network part of your weekly tasks.

5. Rejecting A Connection Because of Status

Never underestimate how valuable a connection can become – you are not better than the basement startup or the undergraduate working as a receptionist. Networks are supposed to provide people with an opportunity to grow, and if you reject an invitation based on staus alone, you might miss out on a real opportunity as that connection gains status. Remember, that rejected connection might one day be far more influential than you, and they might reject a request from you to join their network.

6. Never Meeting in Real Life

While the majority of your connections will be made online, many will host meetups or events in your area. Always saying no to invitations is a red flag to others in your network. We can be whoever we want online, so turning up in person when you can is important to your credibility. While this is difficult for introverts who would rather hide behind a screen, if you don’t show up sometimes, people are likely to question who you really are.