You know you have to research companies before you go on a job interview, your resume is top notch but how are you doing in the networking etiquette department? If 75-80% of job opportunities are found through networking then it only stands to reason that you will be spending a lot of your work search time connecting with people who may be able to put in a good word for you or refer you to someone they know who can help you move forward to uncover your next position.
Even if you are networking with friends and acquaintances there is a certain decorum, a certain professionalism you need to follow so as to make a positive, lasting impression. Don’t make these mistakes:
1. Calling only when you need someone. Don’t even think about calling up someone you haven’t spoken to in 5 years to ask them for help with your search. Stay connected and build your connections with people while you are working, networking isn’t just for unemployed folks.
2. Not having a goal. Before heading off to a networking event know how many people you’d like to talk to, what kind of people you want to meet, what you have to offer, and what you want from the people you meet.
3. Not knowing the answer to ‘Tell me about yourself.’ Whatever you tell people about yourself you want to make yourself memorable by making the response visually captivating. “I just got back from trekking in Napal. When I’m not globe trotting I’m lending out $32,000,000 a year to university students. I’m a loans officer at RBS.”
4. No business cards. Writing your co-ordinates on a cocktail napkin instead of handing over a business card instantly discredits the little rapport you have just established with the chatee. Remember to always ask for their business card first, then offer yours.
5. Talking not listening. Networking is about the other person. Listen, don’t give out advice unless asked for it. Ask genuine probing questions to ascertain whether you can help this person or they can help you.
6. Bogarting peoples’ time. You may have fallen in love with the new person you are chatting with but the feeling may not be reciprocal. Spend 5-7 minutes visiting at networking functions then exchange cards and plan to meet at a later date if there is good chemistry and purpose to the relationship.
7. Looking shabby. You are being judged immediately by the impression you make visually, that’s just a fact. Wear or carry something stunning, whimsical, colorful, trendy, historic or the like. Fanciful clothing or accessories can make you memorable but also a good conversation opener. Minimally be well groomed, clean and looking your best.
8. Standing in the corner. Convey confidence even if it is killing you inside. Come up with one opening statement or question to engage and take the initiative when you first arrive. The bar and food tables are great places for ice breakers.
9. Letting it go at no. When someone tells you they can’t help you now or think of anyone to refer you to now, ask if you can follow up with them in a couple of weeks. Getting a NO is not an invite for you to slink away but to stand tall and be persistent but never pushy.
10. Not following up with the contact. When someone gives you a contact name and you have a meeting, or not, let your contact know how the meeting transpired.
11. Taking but not giving. Networking is giving and taking and asking and offering. Look for ways to help others and during your mission you might find someone who can or will assist you. What you give out comes back ten fold.
If you really want to make a lasting impression and have fun at the same time, when you attend a networking event take on the attitude of a host or hostess not that of a guest.
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and How To Get a Job and Keep It