Networking is a vital part of building, steering, and managing your career. It allows you to become an important part of your business community, learn about unadvertised open positions, and helps you remain visible and attractive to hiring influencers. Networking is not always easy, and there are some common mistakes we should all work to avoid. Here are a few ways we can sabotage our own networking
- Procrastination: The simplest networking mistake is not to network! Although we all know networking is important, it’s easy to
tell ourselves we don’t have the time right now or we can go to next month’s meeting instead. Keep your scheduled network dates as though they were business appointments, after all, they are! Make networking a priority, it will pay off in the end.
- Lack of preparation: Don’t go to a networking event unprepared. We don’t have to do in-depth research, just a quick overview of what the group is about, a check of the names of attendees, and jot down a note or two about what information or opportunities you can share that might be needed or appreciated. Why go to the trouble? The guest speaker might be a hiring influencer in an organization with multiple open positions. An attendee may be in a field you’d love to learn more about. It’s harder to make these important connections if you don’t know about them. Do be sure to bring your business cards, too, so people can contact you later to follow up.
- Attire: Pay attention to your attire at networking events. Some happen at the end of a business day, and it may be a simple matter of a change into a fresh shirt or putting on a suit coat to look business-ready. Other events may call for more casual attire, however, even casual networking events call for looking neat, presenting a well-groomed appearance which exhibits business potential. Err on the side of caution, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
- Etiquette: Another very common mistake is to ignore simple conversational etiquette at a networking event. Despite the purpose of self-promotion, everyone there wants to have pleasant conversations that are interesting, engaging, and productive. Those who engage in high-pressure sales tactics or who ignore others while promoting themselves don’t make a positive impression. Be sure to spend more time focused on other people, be ready to offer something of value (solutions, opportunities, connections), and have your elevator pitch ready for when the focus turns to you. People are far more likely to remember someone who offered something of value!
- Oversharing: Related to etiquette, oversharing is a conversation ender in any business setting. All-too-personal details about a divorce, date, or family difficulty should be kept far away from the business arena. Parental advice about never discussing religion or politics is golden! Avoid the personal or controversial. Worried you’ll be stuck for topics? Think of a few safe subjects in advance and have them ready when those awkward pauses appear. Asking for a local restaurant recommendation, suggesting a useful computer or phone app, or asking about where to find the best coffee in an upcoming travel destination are all safe ways to fill those awkward gaps in conversations.
- Losing focus: Don’t forget why you attended a networking event! Remember to promote yourself, hand out cards to people with whom you made a connection, and talk business. It’s easy to get lost in the getting-to-know-you chat and forget the purpose. If you’re in the right networking event, it’s filled with interesting people in the same line of work. Enjoy the chat, but do business, too.
- Distractions: It’s unpleasant to try to have a conversation with someone who can’t stop looking at their phone. Turn it off, put it in your pocket, and forget it while you network. Make connections now, check the phone later. Other distractions are common as well, juggling resumes, briefcase, and coffee can make shaking hands impossible. That’s a big issue at an event where you’re meeting dozens of new people. Leave the resumes and briefcase in the car. Carry your business cards in an accessible pocket, ready to hand out, and always have a hand free for shaking. Be in the moment, and focus on the people you are there to meet.
- Follow up failures: Don’t forget to follow up! Networking isn’t just about the event, it’s about building relationships. Put those new contacts on your schedule and touch base with them regularly.