Networking can be a stressful sport, especially for beginners. You don’t have to be a socialite or even a particularly outgoing person to be an effective networker. You just need to be prepared, keep in mind your goals and have the guts to go and put yourself out there. Use good judgment and check this list for common networking mistakes to ensure that you’re making professional contacts – not profenemies.
Common networking mistakes you’re making
1. Forgetting names
A name is the single most important piece of information to learn when you’re exchanging contact information with someone. Unfortunately, when you’re first making introductions, you’re thinking about a lot more than committing the person’s name to memory. That’s when mnemonic devices really come in handy. Try to make an association when you first hear someone’s name – maybe Brian is wearing a blue tie. When you look at the tie it can jog your memory – blue – b – Brian! Other useful tricks might be to ask how someone’s name is spelled or to try and make an association with the name and where the person is from or what they do. It doesn’t matter how you remember it – just make sure you remember it.
2. Dressing too casual
The age old adage rings true, especially while networking: dress to impress. In most professional contexts, like a networking event, it’s important to be looking your best. People see you before they approach or talk to you, so your outfit is what will give off your first professional impression and attract or detract others to or from you.
3. Selling yourself short
Do not undermine your skills or abilities in a professional context. Believe in the value that you add as a professional and other people will believe in it too. Networking only works if the contacts that you make trust you to be a competent and professional person. They can’t see that in you until you identify it in yourself and are able to articulate your value.
4. Not talking to enough people
If you’re making the effort to get all the way to a networking event, why would you waste your time not getting enough contacts? Use your time wisely and work the floor instead of huddling in a corner with the one person you already know. Be efficient.Don’t linger. Keep calm and carry on.
5. Not doing your research
It would be a little counterproductive to head to a journalism networking event, for example, and not know what was in the news earlier that day. Who wants to know a journalist who doesn’t know the news? That goes for every industry. Research industry news and company updates before you head over to a networking event to stay on your toes. Have some conversation topics in mind and don’t say anything you don’t actually know. This is a time to prove your competence, knowledge and expertise.
6. Forgetting your business cards
This is a context where going paperless still doesn’t quite apply. Business cards are standard operating procedure for professional networking. Splurge on buying those darn cards so that you can easily hand them over, either at a professional networking event or even a more informal get together. It’s the most professional way to share contact information.
7. Being vague
Making a good impression means knowing what you’re talking about, the value you offer your workplace and being able to communicate that quickly and clearly. In fast, stressful interactions it can be easy to get a little tongue-tied and feel like you’re trying to say so much in so little time, you end up saying nothing at all. Get your introduction speech perfected before you go to a networking event. Prepare to explain what you do and why it’s valuable in a reasonably short amount of time. You’ll come off more polished and professional.
8. Interrupting a private conversation
Networking means going up to people you don’t know and just talking to them… which can be easier said than done. However, it’s important to know when to walk up to people and when not to. One-on-one conversations, for example, are not fair game. Wait until that conversation is over to introduce yourself. However, if it’s a bigger group talking together it’s perfectly fine to politely ask if you could enter the conversation, as long as it doesn’t seem too intimate.
9. Never following up
If you never establish contact with the people you meet, what’s the point of networking in the first place? Shoot a brief email to your new professional contact, as a way of reminding them who you are and setting up a chain of communication. Getting connected through social media is also a good idea.
Now that you’re aware of these common networking mistakes and you know how to avoid them, apply now to build your international network!
Photo 2. by The Intern Group
Photo 3. by The Intern Group