The DOs and DON’Ts of Networking 101
Once upon a time, we gave some basic tips on how to start building your own personal network. Everything from who could be a potential contact, to what to say and where to go, was covered. However, sometimes knowing what NOT to do can be just as – if not more – effective in teaching you the ropes.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few DON’Ts before you make that next call, send that next email, or attend that next event.
DON’T Make it All About You
DO make it about them. Networking is a two-way street. One of the quickest ways to turn off any potential contact is by making it a one-way street. If you’re only in touch when you want something, chances are you’ll continue to find yourself wanting. Think about how you can help others and be a valuable resource. This can be as simple as giving them a job tip or forwarding an interesting article or email. Finding ways to pay it forward is the best way to get help in return.
DON’T Focus On Quantity
DO focus on quality. Networking is about relationships. Real relationships. This is not like Facebook where you try to get as many anonymous friends as possible in an effort to look more popular. Liking you in real life is a lot different than clicking a like button on a page. It’s about making quality contacts that will be mutually beneficial. If you look at people as merely a way to expand your circle, you’ll end up with a large pool with no deep end. Always try to build genuine relationships.
DON’T Be Generic
DO be genuine when you meet someone. Talk about yourself in a personal (but not too personal) way. Break the ice without completely melting it all over the place.
“Asking about a hometown or current neighborhood can break the ice and establish common ground,” says Luke Tanen, executive director of the Chicago Innovation Awards.
It’s a good way to get the flow of conversation going. Talking like you’re in a job interview is not. That will only make things awkward. Be loose, be confident and be yourself. It’ll make a good first impression.
DON’T Forget to Follow Up
After you make new contacts, DO make sure your they know that you remembered them. It only takes a few minutes to compose a short email and say, “It was great meeting you last night.” Don’t worry if you can’t necessarily remember what you talked about because chances are neither can they. That’s not really the point of following up anyway. The point is the act of doing it. All it takes is a short note. Say something like the above and just like that, your email address – and your name – is now in their inbox.
“People know the importance of following up, but very few people actually do it,” said Ilise Benun, a self promotion expert in Seattle. “Sometimes, not one person follows up with me after an event. No email messages saying, ‘Great to meet you.’ I don’t even get spammed by anyone’s email marketing list.”
Though the spamming part might be a tad annoying, not following up at all means you don’t have a new connection, which defeats the purpose of networking to begin with.
Good networking skills are something that can take time to perfect, but it’s not an exact science. Everyone has their own way of doing it. The trick is to craft a style that fits your personality the best. Knowing what not to do when networking can help you define what that style is. It’ll make the difference in meeting people in the right way, and then having the right people meeting you. Always Be Networking!