Networking is a cost-effective and efficient marketing tool that can also be important in non-marketing situations, such as when looking to hire a key person or looking for a job yourself. But to be an effective networker you have to avoid three common mistakes.

             Don’t think that networking is selfish. If you’re networking effectively you’re as apt to help someone else as you are to be helped yourself. Appropriate networking is a socially acceptable activity professionally satisfying for all concerned.

             Don’t give up too soon. Although you might reap an instant reward, it usually takes time for networking to show results.

             The third mistake people make is failing to understand how to do it.

             The best networking is helping others achieve their goals. But to do that you have to develop and nurture your network while always watching for opportunities to help the people in it. This takes a combination of time, effort, diplomacy and tact.

             You must develop a networking plan, covering such items as deciding which organizations you’re going to join, how often you’re going to lunch with people and with whom, how many and which cocktail parties you’re going to attend

             When considering the role of industry and trade organizations or service clubs in your networking plan, remember that it’s far better to actively work one organization than to passively belong to twenty. Get on committees and be quick to volunteer.

             You need to diplomatically gather useful information about the people in your network and tactfully let them know what your strengths and interests are. Your goal should be that people will be comfortable interacting with you.

             Some especially diligent networkers keep a “last contact” note for each person in their network indicating when, how and why the contact took place as well as what was discussed, follow-ups required, and when and how the next contact will be made.

              A lot of effective networking takes place on the telephone and by email. But you never want to be seen as a pest. If you’re going to call or email someone in your network, be sure there’s a reason. “Just touching base” isn’t a reason; an invitation to lunch or to an event is, as would a legitimate request for information or advice. 

             Keep on the lookout for opportunities to drop a personal note to people in your network, such as a birthday, anniversary or an accomplishment. In these situations hand-written notes on good quality stationery stand out and are superior to emails.

             Re-evaluate your network on a regular basis; not everyone you meet will necessarily be a part of an effective and efficient network.

             Prime networking opportunities take place at conferences, conventions and cocktail parties and most people make a networking mistake when they walk into the room. They look around for friends or colleagues to talk to. That’s not networking, that’s visiting. See my article on “Networking at the Cocktail Party.”

             If you haven’t started your network, get at it right away. I can guarantee you will find it rewarding and eventually useful.