Do you approach networking as a way to get favors for free?
If so, you could be what entrepreneur Margaret Morford calls a "networking parasite." The founder and CEO of management consulting and training company The HR Edge, Morford defines these networkers as people who ask for career advice without understanding that other people pay to receive the same expertise.
In a recent piece for The New York Times, Morford shared these tips for making sure your networking isn't ruining your reputation.
1. Always prepare a list of questions.
Show your appreciation by not wasting time. For maximum efficiency, send the questions in advance so the person you're meeting with has time to prepare and can jump right in.
2. Don't criticize free advice.
If you receive advice that isn't applicable, don't respond with reasons the suggestions won't work. It's OK to ask follow-up questions raising specific concerns, but don't be argumentative.
3. Don't refer other people to the person who helped you.
After Morford helped a woman she didn't know very well get a job, emails from strangers started arriving asking for similar help. Why? The woman she helped find a job referred other people to her. When someone does you a favor, don't repay the person by sharing his or her contact information.
4. Make a list of the people you help on a weekly basis.
To make sure you're networking efforts aren't entirely one-sided, keep track of all the people you've helped--without asking for something in return. If you're hitting people up for favors but your own list is consistently empty, you might be a networking parasite.