May 1, 2014

How to Avoid the Dreaded Networking Faux Pas

By: William Smith

In last week’s post, A Basic Guide to Networking, I offered a primer on the value of networking as well as helpful tips young professionals should consider when interacting with new acquaintances at a work function. As a follow-up, its good to note that there are also some faux pas you want to avoid at all costs; people tend to remember impressions made in person, so you want to be sure to present yourself as professionally as possible when networking.

1) Limit how much you drink. This should go without saying. Networking oftentimes (especially in D.C.) occurs in a context where alcohol is present, and oftentimes, free. Resist the urge to get a free buzz. Depending on your tolerance, a 2 or 3-drink maximum is a pretty safe limit: enough to relax, but not so much that you start losing control.

2) Be aware of your appearance. If you eat food at the event, be sure to visit the bathroom to make sure your teeth are clean. This is especially important if you are drinking red wine, as it will stain any trapped food and make it especially noticeable.

3) Don’t only talk about yourself, and don’t talk as if you are repeating a script. This last part can be difficult, but so much of what makes networking awkward is that oftentimes it doesn’t feel like a normal conversation. Be sure to ask the other person questions, and try to work in non-professional related information. Your connections will seem more genuine and memorable if people see you as a person, not a resume

4) Don’t speak badly about anyone, ever. It does not matter if your old boss or current coworkers are truly the devil incarnate, others will probably not be aware of the context, and you will come across as disrespectful and immature. There is a time to talk about how you have dealt with difficult colleagues, but a reception is hardly it.

Smart, effective networking entails being professional, clear, and genuine. It is crucial to remember that networking is about building and maintaining relationships, so what you do after and outside of networking events is very important. Indeed, some of the best networking is done in casual settings, when the awkward artificiality of networking conversations is minimized and it’s easier to be a “genuine” person.

Finally, networking is a two way street: people are much more likely to help you if you are known to be willing to help others. A Basic Guide to Networking can’t guarantee you a job, but it will give you an edge that will improve your employment prospects and professional opportunities in general.

Happy job hunting!

William Smith is a young professional working in the liberty movement.

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