shutterstock_124697548Another new year is just around the corner. And if you are part of the 15% of workers who a Gallup poll says are underemployed or the 53% of workers who a Conference Board survey says are not satisfied with their current employment, perhaps this is time to dust off your networking shoes and get out on the dance floor. Networking can be just what the doctor ordered.

Most people know that networking can be the most important tool to help you increase you income and generate new career opportunities. Thoughtful networkers know how to leverage this tool and get what they want. Alternatively, as I caution in Chapter 12 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), 

“Lack of a clear and effective networking strategy — or simply the failure to be an active networker — can be a roadblock to your career progress.”

So, let’s assume you are ready to crank up your efforts in the new year and become a more active networker. That’s great. But, before you get started, you would be wise to think about how and where and with whom you will be doing your networking. A more thoughtful strategy will help insure that you are spending your precious time wisely.

Here are four classic networking mistakes and some ideas for avoiding them:

1. The first mistake many people make is that they choose group networking over one-on-one networking. Most instantly turn to professional, industry, or other group functions because they see these as the most natural networking venues. These are natural, but they are also not very effective. Replace group networking with more one-on-one over coffees, breakfasts, lunches, and after-work drinks as these tend to produce more tangible results.

2. The second mistake many people make is that they fail to clearly define their ultimate goal and the smaller goals they want to achieve during each networking encounter. Take time to craft a brief statement that will answer the age old question networking question you are likely to be asked: “So, what do you want to do next?” Also, set a measure able objective for each individual encounter.

3. The third mistake many people make is that they conduct their one-on-one networking without a well defined agenda. Most show up, ramble on or let the other person ramble on, and leave feeling they didn’t get any tangible value from the meeting. Set a simple, logical agenda in advance and stick to it. This will pay dividends and avoid lots of wasted time.

4. The fourth mistake many people make is that they approach networking as if it is a one-way street. Most talk about their needs without focusing on the fact that the other person is likely to have needs, too. Try asking “How can I help you?” and similar questions, sincerely trying to uncover the other person’s needs. This will make the conversation more reciprocal in nature and just may help you identify a way to you can help others while they are helping you.

I promise you that if you take your networking game to the next level in these four areas you will greatly improve your career networking results. Whether you are seeking to make a move within your current employer or seeking to jump ship, more and better networking can help you greatly. I see it every day with my clients.

You deserve a great career opportunities which pay you what you are worth and satisfy most of your occupational desires. There’s no better time than now to make a new year resolution to improve your career situation. But, statistically, it will not come to you to by waiting by the phone. You have to get out of your comfort zone and go find it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Networking!