Have you committed any of these networking blunders?
It seems that every networking event comes with a few cringe-worthy moments. From listening to a self-indulgent sales pitch to being asked out on a date, sweaty handshakes, and annoying name-dropping, being on the receiving end of networking mistakes isn't fun. The consequences are even worse if you're the offender. An unfortunate faux pas could spell the end of professional credibility, destroy goodwill, and eliminate the willingness to connect — all key ingredients for successful networking.
Here are 10 common networking mistakes that can derail your efforts to meet like-minded professionals and boost your career. Some are straightforward, yet worth pointing out because they are committed often. Others (such as “staying in touch”) may be well-intentioned but potentially damaging if done incorrectly.
Sometimes, a networking event catches you off-guard. Perhaps you received a last-minute invitation to join your boss at a reception, or maybe you forgot about an event that you had committed to months ago. When you must get ready to go on a moment's notice, there is no time to update that stale LinkedIn profile or order more business cards.
The best advice for avoiding this mistake is to make a polished appearance an organic part of your daily routine. Keep your LinkedIn profile and resume up-to-date, carry your business cards with you at all times, and dress professionally daily. Follow these tips and you will never have to regret wasting an opportunity to make a good first impression.
Using the event to peddle your resume
Pushing your resume on anyone with a pulse (or using the guerilla-marketing tactic of leaving your resume on every cocktail table in the reception area) can make you look like you are only there to advance your own cause. Most people will discard an out-of-context resume that's been forced on them and forget they've ever met you. Those that do remember will recall you as pushy and self-promoting. Do bring your resume — but keep it to yourself, unless your new contact asks for it.
Going on a business-card-collecting spree
A networking event is not a hunt, and there is no reward for collecting the most trophies! Your goal should be to create meaningful connections, not to capture that business card and move on to the next target. Give yourself permission to slow down, pay attention to the conversation, and stop “working the room.” Your results will be better!
Treating anyone as unimportant
Dismissing people who don't meet certain criteria in favor of big names and A-listers is a mistake. A single disparaging comment can embarrass and discredit you for years to come. Treat everyone you meet like they could make a real difference in your life. Be respectful and present, even if the connection is brief.
Failing to ask for help
Professionals often hold the mistaken belief that asking for introductions or advice makes them look weak and disadvantaged. In reality, making a request for an introduction is at the core of the networking process! After all, networking only works when people make new connections. By being respectful, polite, and humble, you can reinforce the relationships you have and build new ones.
Being glued to your cell phone
Networking events can be uncomfortable. For those who want an escape, cell phones are an easy answer. Some professionals think that checking messages or scrolling through emails makes them look smart, busy, and important. However, the only thing this behavior accomplishes is making them look unapproachable, or worse, disrespectful. If you are expecting an important call, feel free to keep that phone nearby — but turn off the ringer and resist the urge to hide behind the screen.
Failing to follow up
Post-event follow up is an opportunity to reinforce your professional image. If you promised someone you would send an article, make an introduction, or schedule a meeting, get it done within 24 hours.
If you are sending a simple “great to meet you” email, don't settle for using an efficient, but boring, template. Make your message personal; add details about the conversation or shared interests. If you had asked someone for advice, make a point of letting them know you took it to heart and acted on it. A follow-up email is not permission to launch into self-promotion or an elevator pitch, however. Be courteous, gracious, and brief.
Following up “just to stay in touch”
Beyond the first email or call after the event, resist the urge to “follow up” just to stay in touch.
This advice may go against the common wisdom, but it makes sense. Today's successful professionals are busier than ever. They don't want to dig through an inbox full of emails that lack substance.
The new rule of thumb is to only follow up when you can add value. Found an interesting article that's relevant to your new connection? Met someone the other professional might enjoy or benefit from by being introduced? Finished a great book you want to recommend? By all means, reach out. If you make every touch point valuable and pleasant for the other professional, you won't ever have to resort to frequent, empty email blasts.
Lying or stretching the truth
From name-dropping when you barely know the “important” individual to inflating your current position, lying is the quickest way to demolish trust and credibility. It won't impress anyone, and even if it does, the truth will come out eventually. So be honest and trust that you are interesting and qualified without embellishment. If you are feeling self-conscious about your credentials, use that as motivation for learning and professional development — not as a reason to lie.
Forgetting to be grateful
Through every interaction, professionals should remember that no one owes them anything — not a meeting, not an introduction, not a recommendation. Set reasonable expectations and don't ask for favors that are reserved for trusted friends and long-time colleagues. If you have just met someone, don't insist that they introduce you to the CEO of the company or give you intel on the business needs of their department.
On that note, be grateful for any help or advice that you do receive. A hand-written thank-you note, a personal email, or a quick phone call to acknowledge the other person's effort will go a long way towards reinforcing the relationship. Don't make the mistake of thinking that personal thank-you messages are outdated: Courtesy counts today more than ever before.
Mistakes are a side-effect of being human, and most professionals will certainly forgive you for an occasional and unintentional faux pas. Having said that, an awareness of common networking mistakes can help you avoid them. From being mindful of your professional appearance to paying attention to small details (such as spelling someone's name correctly in the follow-up email), remember that your new professional acquaintances don't have any baseline knowledge of you. There is no “goodwill reserve” to tap into when you make a mistake, so work on creating positive interactions and adding value. Treat every person you meet as if they have the power to boost your career. By using this advice, you will find yourself in the middle of a life-changing professional network in no time!
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You don't need to give out your resume at networking events, but it's still smart to have an updated one on you. Try a free resume critique to ensure your resume is up to date!