July 23, 2014

Top Ten Networking “No-Nos”

By: Roger Custer

NetworkingThe best way to network is in person at events. When attending receptions, dinners, parties, seminars, and other gatherings, make sure to avoid these networking “no-nos” so you can make the connections you need to be successful.

Epic Food Fail – be sure to only eat modest amounts of neat food. You can always get some substantial food later. I once saw an intern at a reception trying to make sandwiches out of minibagels, tomatoes, and cheese, along with condiments on a tiny reception plate. Needless to say, it did not fit in his mouth and made a huge mess. He was standing in the corner by himself trying to eat when he should have been networking and meeting new people.

Ears Closed – listen to others a lot more than you talk. Dale Carnegie says it well in How to Win Friends and Influence People when he writes “you can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Name Dropping – please don’t use other people’s names to act like you know everyone. No one wants to listen to you talk about how you know Mr. Important and how you once met Ms. Celebrity. Rather, focus on who you can introduce to your conversation partner to be helpful, and ask for other ways you can help.

Resume Inflation – there is no need to lie about your credentials or pretend you are someone you are not. I often advise interns not to say they are “just an intern” but rather to discuss what they are doing and learning in their internship. Be proud of what you have accomplished and talk about how it can help your conversation partner.

Wandering Eyes – don’t be the person who looks over shoulders to see who else is at the reception. This is insulting to your conversation partner and shows you are more interested in others. If you feel like the conversation is not going well, or you have exhausted valuable conversation topics, politely excuse yourself and leave a business card if applicable.

First Impression Fail – don’t allow small things you control to leave a poor first impression. For example, follow the dress code for the event as suggested by the organizers and do not under or over dress. Don’t wear excessive perfume or wrinkled clothing. Make sure your hair is presentable and take a breath mint. These simple steps can prevent someone from dismissing you before you even speak to them – and are entirely in your control.

Business Card Fail – your business card should be simple and easy to use. It should include your name, position, phone number, and email. Anything additional, including a photo, unnecessarily fancy design, resume bullet points, or superfluous details, is not necessary. You might want to include your social media links if you have invested time to make sure they are presentable at the highest level (although potential employers or clients will probably google you anyway).

Anti-Humility – be humble in your interactions with others. There is no need to brag about your accomplishments and act like you are more important than you are. Be sure to ask questions and genuinely listen to the answers people give. Inquire about how you can help others and listen as much as possible instead of talking.

People as Transactions – always see people as people instead of simply how they can help you. If you are looking for a specific transaction like a donation or an introduction to their friend, kindly ask in the context of building a relationship. Do you like it when someone is only asking you to do something and not getting to know you as a person?

Title Worship – some people are fixated on titles and overplay the importance of their position. Your title is less important than your accomplishments and your attitude. These days, people change job titles every few years. Focus on people’s skills, accomplishments, and attitude instead of title.

Altogether, use common sense when networking at events and treat people like you want them to treat you. Avoid these common pitfalls and you will be on your way to successful and productive networking.

Roger Custer is executive director at America’s Future Foundation. This piece was originally published on LinkedIn.