Building relationships with total strangers can be daunting. As an entrepreneur who has cold-pitched dozens of investors and an executive with Wharton Alumnae Founders & Funders Association (WAFFA)—I’ve both perpetrated and seen my share of networking misses.
The central challenge of networking is navigating the thin line between relationship-building and seeking professional gain. How do you strike the right balance between these two seemingly opposing approaches? Start by avoiding these pitfalls that even experienced networkers make again and again.
1. HIDING THEIR MOTIVES
Even a hint of disingenuousness can kill a new relationship. That’s why it’s better to be upfront about your motives for reaching out to a new contact, rather than positioning yourself as “just trying to get to know them.”
Professionals are aware that you haven’t messaged them because you need a new friend. More likely, you want to learn about an initiative they’re working on, secure an introduction, cultivate a target customer, or connect with a potential employer. You don’t need to hide why you want to speak with someone. It’s disguising your agenda that comes across as dodgy.