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Maybe you’ve signed up for several networking events in your area and dutifully attended them. You’ve reached out to dozens of people, made small talk and sipped your way through more than enough glasses of mediocre wine, only to find you are not making traction with these business connections like you thought you would. You could be inadvertently falling victim to some pitfalls. We’ve got some networking tips ready to come to your rescue and get your career connections back on track.

As many industry insiders know, networking for business can be crucial to your workplace success. Networking is more than just making connections with other people. It’s learning how to use these connections in a way that’s worthwhile to your career once you’ve made someone’s acquaintance. If you are knee-deep in a work project and suddenly find you need to consult an editor or a lawyer for advice, it’s nice to have one of those in your network. If a friend or colleague needs a referral, it’s good to send them to someone in your network as a way to strengthen that bond.

But there are common networking mistakes that you should learn to avoid when it comes to making these connections. Some of them are a mere faux pas, while others could negatively affect your career. Follow our guide to stay away from these 5 common missteps – don’t let all your hard work go to waste!

#1 Wanting to Build a Network Only When You Need One

One clear mistake is not starting early enough when it comes to building a network. If you wait to create connections until you’re on the cusp of looking for a new job or exploring a career change, you may miss your window to make networking work for you. Think of it not as a last-minute sprint, but rather as a steady marathon of connections. Make networking part of your daily routine, keeping track and following up with new people as you come across them in the course of your day. At the end of each week, do a mental tally to see how many new connections you’ve made.

#2 Reaching Out Only When You Need Something

People in your network are connections to be cultivated, not ignored. This cultivation can take many different forms. Regular contact, occasional coffee meet-ups, phone calls or email check-ins are a way to foster long-term career relationships, depending on how well you know each person. If you ignore your network members and reach out to someone only when you need something, you might find that person is not that receptive to helping you. Your network is an investment and you have to treat it as such.

#3 Being Unprepared

A little planning goes a long way when it comes to building – and keeping – networks that will help bolster your career trajectory. Before heading to a networking event, prepare a handful of conversational topics ahead of time. Write them out if you need to and read them over to make yourself comfortable with hitting the highlights. Do some research so you know who is going to be at the event, and make notes about who you want to meet. Practice an “elevator pitch” that explains your career in a nutshell, hitting on issues that interest you. This prep work will not only make you more comfortable at the event, it will ensure it’s a productive networking session.

#4 Forgetting Etiquette

Simply put, bad manners can torpedo even the best networking opportunities. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

     Showing up late for a network event or personal meeting.

     Hijacking the conversation by talking about yourself for too long.

     Not asking others about themselves or what they do.

     Interrupting others when they are speaking.

     Posing unprofessional or divisive comments online, or sharing controversial subject matter on social media platforms.

#5 Not Following Up

Don’t forget what you should have learned in kindergarten: When someone does you a favor, say thank you. In this case, it means remembering to send a follow-up note or making a call to express your appreciation for the person’s time.

The type of thank-you should match the effort the other person extended. Someone taking the time for a quick coffee meeting or to send a helpful email should be thanked, whether with a simple note or an email of appreciation. But if the person in your network really made an extra effort to help your career – maybe they agreed to be a reference on your resume, or made a complimentary call to help you land your new job – then make sure to send a gift that adequately expresses your appreciation.

This could mean a bouquet of flowers delivered to their office, a gift card to their favorite restaurant, or even a gift basket filled with more personalized treats. For the athletic colleague, consider a mix of XS™ Sports Protein Bars and XS™ Energy Drinks for an energy boost before or after a workout. Or encourage a mentor who is always there for you to take some time to pamper themselves with a gift basket loaded with fun beauty products like Artistry Signature Color™ Light Up Lip Gloss,  6-piece Artistry™ Brush Set and Artistry Studio™ Glittering Body Jelly.

Being aware of these common networking mistakes will allow you to avoid missteps and focus on growing and strengthening your business connections in a way that will help guide your career success.