April 16, 2015

Networking Advice: A List of No-Nos or “Not-Workings”

By: Peter Redpath

double-dip-chipIn these posts, I’ve already warned you about people who aggressively push their business cards into your unsuspecting hands and the folly of showing up at events fashionably late but I would like to emphasize a few other common networking no-nos:

Not-working #1: Neglecting to RSVP and being a “hedger”

If you’re invited to an event, you need to actually acknowledge the invitation. If someone is nice enough to invite you to an event, you need to be nice enough to respond to it. Not responding is simply rude. And guess what? Maybe is usually an option. For those of you serial un-acknowledgers on Evite or Facebook, don’t diss your host by ignoring their invitation. They put time into planning their event and actually took time to include you on that list. Yes, no, or maybe. It’s not that difficult.

And please don’t wait until the last moment to RSVP. There are far too many “hedgers” out there, those who hedge until the last minute to see if a better social opportunity will surface for them. You know who you are. There are legitimately times you don’t know what your schedule will look like for the week, but most of the time you have a good idea in advance. Don’t be a serial hedger. The host or organization needs to know how many people to expect for catering purposes, chairs, etc.

Not-working #2: Being an obnoxious name-dropper at receptions

One of the most obnoxious reception behaviors in DC is persistent name-dropping. And there are legitimate occasions for you to mention that you used to work with so-and-so on a certain project (for example, if your conversation partner brings up a news story about so-and-so). But remember that your convenient dropping into a conversation about what good buddies you and Justice Scalia are can result in intense agita when your new conversation partner asks your help in getting Nino to speak at her nephew’s high school graduation. I mean, you’re good buddies, after all, RIGHT? Everyone in this town has worked with or had a brush with someone famous at some point. Just don’t be obnoxious about it—if you are, you very well may just get called out.

Not-working #3: Frequently looking over the shoulder of your conversation partner

One of the most frequent complaints I hear about receptions is the frequency with which other people look over their shoulder. Usually it’s someone keeping an eye out for a friend that they’re expecting to run into there, but it’s misinterpreted as “You keep looking around the room for someone better than me.” DC is an incredibly insecure town with insecure people. Be aware of this and allow your tardy friend to pick you out of the crowd (and not vice versa) when she arrives to the reception. Looking around while someone else is talking is bad form. Do your best to avoid it.

Now I realize that some conversations can drag on a bit long and you may legitimately have somewhere to go or someone else you must talk to at a reception. In that case, politely excuse yourself with some variation of the following: “I’ve got a few friends here that I still haven’t chatted with. It was very nice meeting you, but I really should go over and say hi to them.” If you feel like you’re abandoning the other party completely, feel free to invite them to join you as you say hi to your other friends.

Not working #4: Double-dipping

Double-dipping is always bad form, especially during flu season. If this is the first time you’re hearing this, please watch the video.

You could learn a lot about what not to do from George Costanza!

Not-working #5: Departing without saying goodbye

Don’t just abruptly leave a reception and especially a party, without first saying goodbye and thanking the host(s) (or event organizers). You should make a point of saying goodbye to all of your friends (new and old alike) and make a point of thanking the host(s).

Next week, some more not-workings, specifically network neglect…


Peter Redpath is Vice President and Director of the Student Division at the Federalist Society. This is the eighth reprint in a series, based on his remarks at the AFF Networking Lunch in November 2012.