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5 Biggest Networking Mistakes Guaranteed to Stall Your Career

Networking is an Art.

Networking2Networking. How many times have we heard it? It’s like saying, “Bless you” when you sneeze. It has, in a sense, lost its real meaning.

How you network can make all the difference in your career success. If you want to get ahead, your networking skills have to be sharp, savvy and yes, leveraged in such a way to propel you forward. Otherwise, you pretty much run the risk of getting overlooked for promotions, considered as a great candidate for a new job or advancing your current position.  

When given a choice, people will always do business with people they know or with a person that has come highly recommended by a valued and trusted member of their network. The benefits to networking are endless but you have to be good at it. Really, really good.  Great networking improves your ROI on:

  • Friendship benefits: You’ll make new friends that last for a lifetime.
  • Receiving and giving advice: You’ll get viewed as an expert.
  • Opportunities: Whether you garner upward career mobility or are making a move, employers want people who are highly recommended from others in like or supervisory positions. Your network can give you that.
  • Assistance on the job:  You have somewhere to go for assistance, suggestions, referrals and  you’ll even have someone  covering your back or giving you a heads-up when you goof.
  • Positive influence: You become who you associate with.

Here are five of the biggest networking mistakes you can make:

1.            Avoid a great profile on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn is your biggest advantage for entry into good networking.  It has become the winning social media tool for career networking. Whether you are trying to grow your reach, find content or explore opportunities, this virtual meeting place is for many the first and last stop. The latest trend for employers is to look at your LinkedIn profile at the same time they are reviewing your resume. Potential contacts who can help you in your career will also check you out first on LinkedIn.

However, you will generate no interest without an interesting summary. LinkedIn is not a playback of your resume. To attract contacts, you’ll need to demonstrate your personality, take on the business world and show your worldliness. If you want to be taken seriously in today’s world, you cannot go without a full and professionally written LinkedIn profile.

  1.             Don’t go to association meetings, seminars and get-togethers.

It’s one thing to join your association. It’s another to work the networking advantages it brings. Statistics show that face-to-face encounters render far longer benefits than an occasional email to someone you have never met.  People tend to remember you. What will you learn from association networking? What’s happening in your community, new techniques, where the jobs are, the latest software, what firm is doing what (so you can take that information back to your firm and be valuable to management),  salaries, and important events. It’s a great way to stay current, uncover “hot buttons” in the paralegal field and who knows? You might even have a little fun.

  1.             Be sure to alienate every recruiter who calls you.

Networking needs to include recruiters. Connect with them. They are invaluable. They hold the key to hundreds of contacts: HR, managing partners, paralegal supervisors, in-house legal counsel, legal service providers, colleagues and more. They know salaries, firms, trends, and in particular, where the field is headed. In fact, they know if your firm is in trouble before you do.

Don’t be so smug if a recruiter calls or emails you about a new position. I can’t tell you how many times people ignore the call or treat the recruiter abysmally only to wake up a few weeks or months later to find their firm is laying off, merging or otherwise purging. Then what? Do you know where to go? You think back. “Oh, yeah. I’ll call that recruiter who called me a couple of months ago.” Right.  Try calling them back after you have snubbed them. Most likely, they won’t take the call.

  1.             Don’t network with colleagues in your firm.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they are networked in social media; go to association meetings; build a network; and reach out into the community but they neglect to network within their own firm!

If you're able to build rapport with hiring authorities at your firm, you can be the first to find out about forthcoming internal promotions and strategically position yourself for growth. Similarly, you may discover the firm is opening a new branch office in your dream destination, and if you're connected with the right person, you could get a head start on applying for the transfer.

Who do you know? Some of the most important people to connect with are the conduits to the power in your firm. That is, someone who can speak for paralegals. Network with colleagues, partners, associates, staff – be sure to include everyone. People can tell you what’s going on in your own firm.  You’ll get noticed. Everyone wants to be with a winner that other people respect. Hanging out alone in your office or cubicle will not get you advanced up the ladder.    

For example, success stories such as Ralph Lauren, Mark Cuban, Warren Buffett and Jay-Z all rose from modest beginnings. You can be sure those who showed them support with no agenda during the growing pains enjoyed the ride once these icons’ careers exploded.

           5.         Ignore the benefits of networking.
You can benefit as your contacts develop.  Continuing to build new relationships and nurture existing contacts can be hugely beneficial to you as members of your network grow into the next phases of their career.

For example, success stories such as Ralph Lauren, Mark Cuban, Warren Buffett and Jay-Z all rose from modest beginnings. You can be sure those who showed them support with no agenda during the growing pains enjoyed the ride once these icons’ careers exploded.

The key is to keep your networking process going as much as you can without needing to ask for anything in return. Show genuine interest in other people and in their hopes, wants, dreams and desires.  Ask questions they'd be excited to answer. Listen intently to what they have to say and you'll have surrounded yourself with a circle of people who would not only be willing but excited to help take your career to the next level.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing; President & Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals and CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute. She has written 10 books on the paralegal career and hundreds of articles. Formerly, Chere was the Paralegal Administrator for two major law firms and an exec in a $5 billion corporation.  She has written 10 books in the legal field and authored hundreds of articles. She has been interviewed by many  prestigious publications and is a national seminar leader. Chere is a Los Angeles  Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Recipient and Co-founding member of the International Practice Management Association (IPMA).  Talk to her at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

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