Chicago Tribune (Sunday)
4 epic (but common) networking fails and how to avoid them
Building relationships with strangers can be daunting. As an entrepreneur who has cold-pitched dozens of investors and an executive with Wharton Alumnae Founders & Funders Association—I’ve both perpetrated and seen my share of networking misses.
Hiding their motives
Even a hint of disingenuousness can kill a new relationship. That’s why it’s better to be upfront about your motives for reaching out to a new contact, rather than positioning yourself as “just trying to get to know them.” Professionals are aware that you haven’t messaged them because you need a new friend. Disguising your agenda comes across as dodgy.
Asking for too much
Requesting a specific intro from someone you don’t know well can turn awkward if they don’t actually have a relationship with that contact or don’t think it’s a good use of their contact’s time. Ask open-ended questions that leave space for the other party to gracefully decline. “Do you know anyone I should speak with as I try to learn about jobs at Google?” beats “Can you connect me to your ex-colleague Mrs. Smith at Google? I want to ask her for a job.”
Bringing too little effort to the table
Dian Oved, CEO of Empower Digital, a digital marketing and PR company, explained a common pitfall. “A new founder will ask me for a celebrity intro for a collaboration,” Oved said, “but they haven’t yet built a website, prepared materials, or thought about what they’ll do if the intro is made.”
Missing the Goldilocks point of specificity
Successful networkers hit the Goldilocks point of specificity. “Hey, I’m looking to unload my inventory. Any thoughts?” is too vague an ask. It puts the burden on your new contact to think through your problems for you. Instead, try: “Do you know any retail buyers looking to buy wholesale inventory?” But always leave the “how” of your ask up to your contact.