Networking is an important and vital part of the job hunt, yet many job seekers are actually shooting themselves in the foot during the networking process.
Whether you’re meeting a professional contact for the first time, or have known them for a while, there are definite “no-no’s” you need to be aware of in all professional networking situations. Follow these tips to avoid ruining your chances for a positive networking experience, and perhaps your next job:
Most professional networking situations involve alcohol. It makes the mood a little less formal and invites more social interaction. However, it can also invite some inappropriate behavior if you don’t know your limit. Be mindful of the appropriate amount you should drink. Try to eat something before going out so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach. Also, if someone else is picking up the tab, be respectful of what you’re ordering — stay away from the $20 martini.
You feel like you have a good thing going with a brand new professional contact you’ve met. So, you go in for the ask to see if they have any open positions within the company. Your new contact immediately withdraws and you realize you’ve just lost a great connection — and possibly your dream job.
There are some circumstances, like job fairs, where contacts are expecting to be asked about jobs and opportunities within their company. However, if the people you’re with are just trying to enjoy themselves, wait for a better time. Instead, ask to meet them again for coffee or lunch.
Silence may be awkward, but trying to fill the silence with a completely inappropriate joke is worse. Jokes or stories like these may be funny when you’re around friends, but be careful when you’re around professional contacts. You never know how they will take the joke and what it could cost you in return. As they say, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
The bottom line is that networking can be awkward and feel forced at times. However, now that you know what to stay away from, you can follow these simple tips from the pros to make your networking experience a positive one:
Keep in touch. According to a 2014 survey by Robert Half, 28 percent of senior managers said not keeping in touch with contacts was the biggest mistake people make when networking with professional contacts. See if they’d like to meet for coffee or lunch and send notes to them when you hear something great about their company.
Always maintain a professional demeanor. No matter where you are, and how inappropriate others are being, you should always be professional when in work settings. Don’t be “that guy.”
Put yourself in their shoes. If you were trying to enjoy yourself outside of work, would you want to be bombarded by an eager young professional with 20 questions and a personal sales pitch? Probably not. Enthusiasm is great, but harness that energy for appropriate times. Show you can carry on a conversation and have a great personality to back up your exceptional skills — it will undoubtedly leave the lasting impression you desire.
Don’t underestimate the power of online networking. According to the Robert Half survey, 47 percent of senior managers said the most effective way to connect with professional acquaintances is through online networks. It’s convenient for both parties, and a great way to stay top-of-mind without going overboard.
Show your gratitude for their help. A staggering 17 percent of managers interviewed in the survey said not thanking others for help was the biggest mistake people make when connecting with professional contacts. It’s manners 101 — always thank your professional contacts for their help, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped!
If you stay away from these “no-no’s” and follow these tips, you’ll be in a great position to make strong new professional connections and eventually find your dream job.
Do you have some great networking experiences, or some not-so-great ones? Please share with us so we can all learn from each other!