“Networking isn’t natural to me.”
“Networking is phony.”
“I’m an introvert, so I can’t network.”
“It’s not part of my culture.”
Folks, networking is simply building two-way relationships to help each other achieve personal or professional goals or to find life satisfaction. Just ask Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” Or Brené Brown, who said, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
Previously, I revealed four of the top 10 types of networking bloopers to avoid. In summary, they were:
- Suggesting lunch.
- Being overly apologetic.
- Not having business cards.
- Barging right in.
I have a few more to share.
- Dominating Someone’s Time
Have you ever been to an event and wanted to meet a few key people? You patiently waited to shake hands with one executive; however, another attendee dominated their time.
Don’t be that time-dominating networker. Networking events are not the place to have deep conversations. They are perfect for making initial introductions, so you can follow up and truly network later.
Instead of trying to be “interesting” at networking events or career fairs, simply be “interested.” When you shift your networking mindset, you will be more effective.
Try these techniques:
- Secure a list of attendees or company names prior to the event. Do some research, and list your network targets.
- Arrive early, peer at the name tags of other attendees, and start meeting others while it’s quiet. Once the dinner or speaker starts, networking time is over.
- Have your “go-to” starters ready, such as “[Name], I was looking forward to meeting you tonight. May I ask you one question? I’m pursuing a [title] position at [company], and I’d like your recommendation on the best way to meet executives in the [department].” Go on to suggest some ideas of your own.
- Have a few generic starters in your back pocket, such as, “What brought you here tonight?” or “I’d love to learn more about your background.”
- Bring a pen and paper with you to write down who you met, their contact information (if you didn’t get a business card) and what you discussed.
- Follow up with anyone you networked with via LinkedIn (with a personal note in the connection request) and send an e-mail. This is where the real networking begins.
- Being Casual, Flippant or Unprepared
Yes, networking is supposed to be a two-way street. But as a networking coach, I train people on the unspoken truth about networking. Within any given scenario (e.g., job seeker, sales, marketing, business development) one person has the role of “networker” and the other is a “networkee.”
While the roles can reverse, the networker is the one who needs the other person’s support or insights. The networker owns the actions, follow-through, gratitude and follow-up. Even more importantly, networkers need to focus on making a great first impression and being ultra-professional. When in doubt, err on the formal side.
The chronic blooper is that networkers are too casual, too flippant or way too unprepared.
Not you? Have you (accidentally) done any of these?
- Said “Hey” or “Hi” versus “Hello” or “Dear…”
- Included happy faces, wild use of exclamation points or other written faux pas
- Texted rather than sent professional e-mails
- Made far too many grammatical errors
- Sent e-mails signed “Susie” versus “Susie Anderson” with a phone number and LinkedIn URL in an auto-signature
- Maintained an incomplete or sparse LinkedIn profile with no photo or a photo with a puppy
- Been glued to your phone instead of shaking hands, making eye contact or, God forbid, writing things on paper to show you are listening
- Forgotten to bring business cards to exchange (see networking blooper No. 3)
- Being A Taker
Networking has some very basic etiquette rules that are logical, simple and uncomplicated. The one habit done most regularly and repeatedly is “get what you need then disappear.” But this isn’t networking. It’s simply taking. Yes, don’t be a taker.
People want to help because they get joy out of seeing someone else’s success or results. However, my estimate is that only one in 100 networkers does anything beyond a thank-you note (if that). If you want to avoid the “taker” label, do the following:
- Take meticulous notes of every networking conversation in a spreadsheet, including names, dates, contact information, where you met, etc.
- Immediately after someone helps you in any way, send them a thank you note. And put a reminder in your calendar to e-mail them a thank you one month later.
- Often, someone will refer you to someone else. Let’s say John recommends you talk to Liz. After you talk to Liz, thank her and send a great note to John, thanking him and updating him with your progress.
- Once you achieve a milestone, thank everyone in the food chain. Announce your progress and thank everybody as if they made the offer themselves. Ensure the level of gratitude is commensurate with the assistance of the networkee. Consider coffee gift cards, handwritten notes or more based on the graciousness of the person.
As you can see, the opposite of being a taker is twofold: (1) to follow up regularly with your progress and, (2) to demonstrate immense gratitude. Ask yourself, “Who can I thank today?”
This article (part 2 of 3) originally appeared here in Forbes.com.