Among some professionals, networking doesn’t always get the best reputation. That’s because we make the mistake of thinking of it as a selfish form of communication. Networkers want to meet more people and make contacts they can use to their advantage—therefore, it’s easy to assume none of their interactions are genuine.
But, networking isn’t all bad. In fact, it can be a great way to meet industry colleagues with whom you might collaborate in the future. It’s all about being honest and smart and relying on contacts you have gotten to know over time.
We know you have it in you, and we also have a bit of advice to guide you along the way. Here are the biggest do’s and don’ts to consider as you embark on a networking mission.
Don’t: Speed Date
Networking events will have you chatting with a few different people in the room—there’s nothing wrong with that. But jumping from small-talk introduction to small-talk introduction won’t allow you the opportunity to make any meaningful connections.
At your next event, focus on more profound conversations with two or three people. Chances are, you won’t get an immediate opportunity out of it, but you will have a new contact who will remember you as friendly, honest and professional, which you can use to your advantage in the future.
Do: Prepare Beforehand
There’s a happy medium between a well-rehearsed saleswoman and an introverted networker grasping for conversation. You can find it by doing just enough prep before your next event. Be sure you’ve stocked up on business cards to exchange with your new contacts. And, if you need it, practice how you’ll introduce yourself to others so you can confidently enter any conversation.
Don’t: Jump Straight to Sales
A networking event isn’t meant to be a place to pitch your business or your product. It’s also the wrong time to inquire about job opportunities at another company.
In fact, it’s unusual for someone to come to a professional social gathering to field this type of request. Get to know the person you’re talking to, and an opportunity might arise organically down the line in the professional relationships you build instead.
A typical networking mistake is focusing so much on your pitch that you ignore everyone else in the conversation. An excellent piece of advice to keep in mind is that you have two ears and one mouth, and you should use them proportionally. Listen while others are talking, and ask thoughtful questions to stoke the conversation.
Don’t: Be Too Informal
As you’re likely realizing, networking has a lot to do with striking a perfect balance between the professional and personal. As such, it’s important to keep in mind that, while friendliness is an ideal quality to have, you should always err on the side of professionalism. Don’t overshare—this principle also applies to your social networks where contacts may try and connect with you.
Do: Keep in Touch
To that end, the last—and potentially most important—piece of networking advice is to keep in touch with those you’ve met. As we’ve said, the whole process is more about the relationships you cultivate than the spark of interaction you have at a professional event.
There are so many ways to grow a professional relationship: Start by reaching out via email the day after the networking event. Connect on a professional networking site like LinkedIn. You might even propose a happy hour or business lunch from time to time to build on the foundation you already laid. That way, when you’re in search of a new opportunity, you will feel nothing but confident reaching out to this contact, who has now become a friend.
Now, all you have left to do is sign up for the next professional gathering for your industry. Grab some business cards and get ready to put all these do’s and don’ts into practice.
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