What are your thoughts on professional networking? Is it a necessary evil or mutually gratifying? In this day and age, networking is more crucial than ever for career advancement. Mastering this tool widens your network on top of helping you gain knowledge, credibility, awareness, expertise and trust. That being said, having a positive outlook alone cannot eliminate the possibility of cringe-worthy situations. Get ready to manoeuvre your way through the next networking event like a seasoned public relations professional. Here are some do’s and don’ts to get you started.
- Do set your focus – listing measurable goals creates a sense of purpose.
- Do attend events with an open mind.
- Do become a connoisseur in a field outside your work.
- Do focus on the quality of your interactions – this works for introverts too.
- Do keep in mind that when your networking is driven by interests you share, it will feel more authentic. Take a page out of writer, lecturer and author, Susan Cain’s, book and, “collect kindred spirits.”.
- Do research the presenters/speakers and attendees before the event.
- Do find out how you can add value to whom you’re speaking to.
- Do maintain the connection by sending a follow-up email within 24 hours.
- Do carry enough business cards with you at all times.
- Do try to practice your small talk. One manager suggested listening to podcasts to familiarise yourself with different topics.
- Do present yourself with consistency across all your social media accounts. Make sure the information is up to date and accurate.
- Do learn about privacy settings for social media websites and apply them as you see fit.
- Do consider joining a club, committee or association outside of work.
- Do remember to wear your nametag on the right side as it’s in the other person’s natural view when shaking hands.
- Do take the time to create and practice your ’30 second’ elevator pitch.
- Do prepare relevant questions beforehand.
- Do arrive early as it’s easier to transition from an almost empty room to a full one than to find someone to talk to in an already crowded room where the conversation is flowing.
- Do consider sitting with people you aren’t familiar with to maximise opportunities
- Don’t have the misconception that networking should be restricted to networking events.
- Don’t overshare personal or professional information.
- Don’t forget different people have a different sense of humour
- Don’t forget to proofread all your posts on social media and networking websites.
- Don’t forget networking is not something you can switch “on” and “off” when you feel like it.
- Don’t attend events solely to pitch business ideas or seek out potential customers.
- Don’t rely on social media alone. It’s a different connection compared to meeting someone in person.
- Don’t focus on the number of name cards you collect. Instead, focus on the quality of relationships you are about to develop.
- Don’t persistently self-promote.
- Don’t ask anyone to distribute your resume for you.
- Don’t present a non-professional image.
- Don’t interrupt conversations.
- Don’t be shy (channel your inner actor/actress and act brave if you need to).
Whether you are a marketing maven, experienced business professional, fresh graduate, or at the cusp of your career — the same networking rules apply. Remember that every conversation, regardless of the outcome, is a chance to adapt and improve. As Keith Ferrazzi, once shared, “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” Here’s to your success!