Networking – it’s a skill not often taught at university, but one you’ll find incredibly beneficial to have in your tool bag. Some people are naturals when it comes to networking events – they have a knack for working the room and charming their way onto everyone’s LinkedIn connections list. But more often, you’re likely to see people at these events who really have no idea what they’re doing, and who go around making the worst impression possible on everyone they meet. Don’t be one of them – check out how NOT to network in eight simple steps:
1. Being pushy when networking
Nothing gets people offside more quickly than someone who pushes their business card / agenda / sales pitch within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. You are there to meet people, not bully them into helping you out. Confidence is great, but this is a conversation, not a performance - spend time getting to know your new contact and what you might be able to do for them before you start asking for favours.
2. Talking incessantly about yourself
Even if you’re not trying to force your needs onto someone else, spend the entire first meeting talking only about yourself and you’re unlikely to get a second. Ask the other person appropriate questions to show you’re interested in getting to know them better as a new professional contact – if you’re doing all the talking at a networking event, you’re doing it wrong.
3. Treating this chat like a job interview
This is a social gathering and a chance for you to make new connections in your industry – don’t spend your time with this new person reeling off the highlights of your resume, unless you want to potentially come across as equal parts desperate and arrogant. If they ask about what you’ve done in your career so far, tell them, but remember – this is not a job interview.
4. Getting too personal with network contacts
This is not a speed-dating event – you are not there to flirt and start getting into a very personal conversation with someone. Above all else, you need to remain professional at these events – you don’t want to earn a reputation in your industry as “that” person.
5. Not respecting other people's personal space
While we’re on the subject of getting personal, be aware of your new contact’s personal boundaries. No one likes a close talker, nor does anyone want to be manhandled by someone who doesn’t know the rules for touching. Maintain a healthy distance, pay attention to their body language, and don’t be too touchy-feely – shaking hands is fine, but arm touches and hugs? Not so much.
6. Not making the effort to meet new people
If you’re not meeting anyone new at networking events, why are you there? Sure, the finger food might be good, but promise yourself you won’t spend the entire function in the corner on your phone or only chatting with those you already know. If you don’t want to approach a total stranger, that’s fine – ask someone you do know to introduce you.
7. Know when to leave a networking chat
Really great networkers know when it’s time to thank the person for their time and wrap up the conversation. Don’t monopolise your new contact’s time – if you’re hitting it off really well, that’s great, but maybe you could make a time to catch up after the event to ensure you don’t overstay your conversational welcome.
8. Forgetting or getting a new contact's name wrong
All is not necessarily lost if you forget your new contact’s name or get it wrong – apologise and make a conscious effort to get it right. They might be fine about it the first time, but a second time might be seen as just plain rude.
Yes, networking events can be terrifying, but knowing what not to do might just help you to turn them into valuable career-building opportunities. What’s your pet peeve at networking events?