It is a fact widely acknowledged that networking is an essential part of growing professionally, whether as an employee of a large organisation or as an entrepreneur. We have dealt elsewhere in these pages with the nuts and bolts of networking and its importance, but there is more to it than merely attending industry events and exchanging business cards.
In particular, it is possible to go about networking in the wrong way, making mistakes that end up being detrimental to your hopes of advancing professionally. So what are the things to avoid? Let us look at the 5 deadly sins of business networking:
1. Not carrying your business card
This is the single most counterproductive thing you can do – after all you have come to the conference / meeting with the intent to make contacts, meet people and have them remember you when you get in touch with them later, or have them get in touch with you. But with so many people there, no one is going to remember your name unless you have given them your business card. Even if you take their information and contact them on your own, the fact is not having a business card is seen as a highly unprofessional act. So don’t leave them at home, in your office or your car. Ensure you have enough on you at all times to exchange with as many people as you are likely to meet
2. Poor timekeeping
Once you are at the event, it is essential to devote your time to meeting people. This means not spending all your time on phone calls. So have a grip on when the event begins and ends, when you will have time to meet and greet people, and keep yourself free during that time to have quality interactions
3. Not listening
Networking is a two-way street. When you show yourself willing and able to help others is when they will feel you are someone they would like to engage with. Do not try to overpower people with your words until and unless you have a formal speaking opportunity. Rather, find out what is that the senior people there are looking for and then try to explain how you can help. At worst, repeat what they have said in your own words to demonstrate your understanding of their problem and that you will attempt to put them in touch with the right people – and if you can, do it.
4. Not following up
So you carried your business card. Met a number of interesting and useful people. Collected their contact information. Well, if you do not follow up on it by keeping in touch, you might as well not have gone. Ensure that for the people you do want to meet again, you make a contact within a day of the networking event.
5. Sending spam
Following up does not mean bombarding everyone you met with a single form email. Firstly, ensure that you have taken the permission of the people you have met to contact them. Secondly, contact the ones with whom you think you have made a connection and who would be interested in furthering it. Lastly, ensure you have something tos ay to each of them. The last thing a person wants is a standard-format mail that does nothing to either make them feel unique or create a memorable impression of you, the sender.
Ultimately, networking is not merely about going to a place and shaking hands. It is about making effective connections that will stand you in good stead when the time comes.