12 networking don’ts

Don’t mess up your job and career prospects with these networking don’ts.

Networking is a necessity for anyone who wants to find a job and/or advance their career. You have to get out there and meet people, since it’s through people that you’re likely to find many great opportunities.

Networking doesn’t just happen at industry events. Any gathering of people is a networking opportunity. In fact, you may have better luck at non-industry events, since you’re not swimming in the same pool as dozens of other people who are also looking to advance their careers with the same people.

What are some best networking practices? Be friendly, listen, ask questions, and be on your best behaviour. Need more help? Here are 12 networking don’ts. Exhibiting these behaviours in a social will probably not get you where you want to go.

Networking don’ts:

1. Talking about yourself all the time.

Don’t do this. If you find yourself talking about you, you, you…STOP, turn around and ask the other person something about them. Giving a laundry list of supposedly interesting things you have done does not make you interesting. Being interested in the other person, however, does. So hold back on mentioning yourself unless it really adds something to the conversation. Nobody wants to hang out with a self centred bore.

2. Conducting an interrogation.

On the other hand. Don’t pepper the other person with question after question. I totally do this and I know I shouldn’t but I sometimes can’t stop – because I want to know a lot of things. Ideally, you would find something you can talk about like a movie, book, experience, or global issue, and exchange ideas on the topic. So, it’s not just people taking turns talking about themselves.

3. Being a wallflower.

Don’t stand in a corner or sit on a sofa staying silent and waiting for people to approach. That’s not what you’re there for and you can do that at home. Say hello to people. Introduce yourself. If you need some conversation starters, there are some here.

4. Not focusing on the person you’re talking to.

If you’re lucky enough to be talking to someone, don’t look around for someone better while you do. They can see what you’re doing and it’s so rude. People who have spoken to master networkers always say the same thing: “They made me feel like I was the only person in the room.” If you can’t manage that, pay attention, or at least look like you are.

5. Not knowing when to exit.

How many times have you found yourself at a party, trying to figure out how to graciously exit a conversation after 20 minutes? Guess what: they’re probably thinking the same thing. One way to do this is to invite someone else into the conversation, then leave. In a pinch you can say you have to go the bathroom or are going to get a drink, or just say, “It’s been nice talking to you. I’m going to look around.”

6. Getting into heated arguments.

Don’t get into heated arguments at networking events, unless you’re willing to stand by your position to the potential detriment of your career. I mean sure, if someone expresses an opinion that is wildly offensive or pure evil, you might be willing to risk it. But weigh the potential risks against the benefits, because once you’ve said something you can’t take it back.

7. Being an oversharer.

Networking events are neither therapy nor a confessional. Many networking veterans have recounted being cornered and regaled with details of a messy divorce or TMI about a medical condition. The juicier details of your life might seem like a good topic because they grab someone’s attention. But that doesn’t mean people want to hear about them. stick to less personal topics of common interest.

8. Giving a Ted Talk.

While it’s great that you’re super interested and extremely informed about X, Y or Z, networking events aren’t the place to deliver a detailed seminar. Like most people, I have some niche interests and a wealth of knowledge in certain areas but that doesn’t mean I should be giving strangers a graduate level course on King Henry VIII or the joys of raising bearded dragons and axolotls. Sharing interests is fine. Lecturing is not.

9. Drinking too much.

There’s a reason alcohol is served at social gatherings, but it’s good to know your limits. Not only is hitting the bar too hard a generally unseemly thing to do, drinking past a certain point can seriously impair your social judgment and your boundaries. Doing so can easily lead to other mistakes in the list such as 7, 6 and 1.

10. Gossiping.

This is a big temptation at networking events that is best avoided. People love to gather together and dish embarrassing details or say snarky things about others. This is a terrible thing to do because it is mean spirited and, most of all, immature. It can also get back to your targets, which is never a good thing.

11. Asking for a job.

When meeting someone in a social situation is not the time to ask them for a job – or even for career help. You want to come across compelling and interesting, not desperate and needy. It’s good if you can offer help – “Oh, you’re having trouble with XYZ? I can help with that. Let’s get in touch later in the week.” Even better if you’re not asking them to pay you for that help. They’ll remember your kindness and generosity.

12. Not getting contact information.

What are you networking for if you can’t stay in touch? Connect with your new friends on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever social network you choose. Get a phone number or an email address, or exchange cards, but do find a way to stay in touch.

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