The 1 networking mistake you should never make again

A few months ago, an acquaintance reached out to me for career and personal branding advice. Thrilled to help, I offered to call this person right away (free of charge of course) and I spent close to an hour sharing advice, suggesting various resources and offering to introduce her to one of the most valuable mentors I have ever had.

I went above and beyond for this contact, just like I do for almost anyone who reaches out to me for guidance. In return, I received the absolute worst thing you could get after extending help with networking.

Nothing.

That’s right, absolutely nothing. This acquaintance never thanked me for my follow-up email and never responded to either myself or my mentor. This person literally fell off the radar. I have to admit, I’m disappointed that I never heard back. I have no idea if the recommendations I gave were put to good use or just ignored. My time was wasted, and truth be told, I will be hesitant to help this person in the future.

The key takeaway from this story? Do not ask for advice, referrals or networking help if you’re not in a position to follow up. It should go without saying, but if someone introduces you to a contact or offers you help, you absolutely need to respond within in three to five days. You should say something like this:

Thank you for taking the time to give me some great advice on how to (insert advice topic). I learned (insert what you learned) and am excited to put what I learned into practice. I also appreciate you connecting me with (insert the name of the person you were introduced to) and will be sure to reach out to them soon. I’ll keep you posted on my progress toward (insert the goal you are trying to achieve) and again thank you for your help and support.

Even if you realize you’re not in a position to take the advice, reply with a simple and meaningful “thank you” message. It should look something like this:

Thank you for taking the time to give me some great advice on how to (insert advice topic). I learned (insert what you learned). After chatting with you, I realized I am not ready to put your advice into practice. I feel as though I need to (insert the reason why you aren’t ready) before I can focus on (insert advice topic). Thanks for your understanding and thanks again for your help and support.    

Failing to follow up after you receive advice can cause your contacts to question your gratefulness, integrity and class. As a result, you could lose a valuable resource, tarnish your reputation within your network and miss out on future opportunities. Don’t let this happen to you.

Remember, your network is your net worth so don’t burn bridges.

Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.

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