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.

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