By Cecelia Bocker
Networking is one of the most useful tools you can have in today’s professional world, but not everyone knows how to go about it. Some people are too shy to talk to others, some don’t know when to stop talking, and others just aren’t sure how to get started. Check out these 5 dos and 5 don’ts to help you become a master at networking.
Do #1: Get yourself business cards that will stand out from the stack at the end of an event.
After an event, like many people, you might have trouble remembering which card belonged to who once you are looking at a stack of 25 that are the same size and shape. Your business card is a reminder of who you are and what you bring to the table; make it memorable, just like you.
Some ways to make sure your card stands out are to use a pop of color, include a cool font or an eye-catching graphic. Remember, you want your card to stand out but still remain professional.
Don’t #1: Don’t latch on to one or two people at an event.
The purpose of networking events is to make a number of meaningful and useful connections. While becoming friendly and familiar with a few people in similar industries is perfectly okay, remember those people want to use time to their advantage just like you.
If it seems like you are the one contributing most of the conversation, or if you’ve been talking to them for an extended period of time, wrap it up politely. Give that person, and yourself, a chance to network with others.
Do #2: Follow-up!
After speaking with someone that you feel would be a mutually successful connection, be sure to connect with that person on LinkedIn, and send them a personalized message telling them how much you enjoyed speaking to them.
Pro Tip: Mention something interesting you spoke about or something they seemed passionate about, it will show you were really listening!
Don’t #2: Delay your follow-up or response.
This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in the networking world. In a society where everyone has email and LinkedIn almost always at their fingertips, it is not acceptable to forget to send a thank-you, ignore an email, or delay replies. Aside from extenuating circumstances, you can take the minute to reach out or respond to someone that took time to connect with you. Not only is it rude to dodge these types of communication, you’re also showing less than desirable traits to people you want as professional contacts.
It’s 2018, everyone knows you got that email, text, LinkedIn invite, phone call, etc.
Do #3: Listen to learn, not to respond.
Of course you need to contribute to conversation, no one wants to talk to a wallflower, but don’t monopolize or dominate the conversation. Really listen to what the other person is saying, even if it might not be exactly what you’re interested in. You might wind up learning something really interesting or useful.
You can also reference this topic in your follow-up with them, so they realize you were truly paying attention. This will make you stand out among other people that this person spoke with, causing them to remember you in two possible scenarios: if/when you need something from them, or when they recommend you to someone else; thus, using your network effectively.
Don’t #3: Directly ask for a job or interview.
Bottom line, no one wants to feel used. While your end game might be to land an interview at that person’s workplace or with someone they know, don’t focus your conversation directly on that.
Give people a chance to learn about who you are and your skillset before approaching this topic.
Do #4: Use your social media wisely.
Social media can be one of your most useful networking tools in today’s world. Nowadays, every person, place and business has a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook page. Be sure to follow people and pages that pertain to the industry you’re interested in. Engaging with people across these networks and platforms allows you to expand your network digitally, along with keeping you up to date on the trends in today’s professional world.
In addition to this, keep in mind that your social media profiles give insight about who you are and how you feel. Be sure the image you are portraying online is one that conveys you in a positive light; avoid posting, sharing and commenting on things that could be seen as offensive or unprofessional.
Don’t #4: Run out of a meeting or event as soon as it ends.
Everyone has a busy life and is always running to the next place, but take a few minutes to stick around for a little bit longer than you need to. This will give you the opportunity to get to know what people are talking about outside of the particular items that were discussed in a meeting and see if you have similar interests, likes, etc.
Also, being the first person to run out of a meeting or event can give the appearance that you did not want to be there in the first place or that you don’t care, which is once again a trait that you don’t want to convey.
Do #5: Smile!
In addition to looking nice, smiling makes you look more approachable and friendlier overall. People will be more likely to come up to you and get involved in a conversation if you have a smile on your face.
A smile also makes it clear that you are happy to be at an event or that you are enjoying your conversation causing people to be more drawn to you as opposed to someone who looks miserable or bored.
Don’t #5: Forget to say thank you!
Having basic manners is one of the first things we learn from our parents at a young age. Even if someone doesn’t actually do something for you, thank them for taking the time to speak to you, meet with you, etc.
It might seem minor, but being professional and courteous makes a huge difference in how you are viewed by others.