Use Networking To Jumpstart Your Career (Part 1)
Five networking don’ts
We’ve all heard how important it is to network. Someone, somewhere along the way has told us it’s the best way to find a new job or build a business. And it makes sense. Networking works because people like to do business with people they know.
Unfortunately, networking is like eating a healthy diet. We all know we need to increase our contacts if we want to be successful. But, we’d rather not walk into a room of 50 people we don’t know. I know I should eat a nutritious diet if I want to stay healthy. So every morning I eat Oatmeal with Soymilk for breakfast. Now that oatmeal is OK, but I’d rather have a jelly donut.
It’s the same with networking. You know you should go to the association’s monthly dinner. But, you’d rather go home and catch a little TV. Watching TV seems more appealing than pumping hands with a bunch of strangers.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Once you become more comfortable meeting people the easier it will be to go to events. And as your networking efforts begin to bear fruit, you’ll become more excited when you have the opportunity to connect with new people.
I can’t promise that after you read this article you’ll look forward to attending every seminar and meeting. However, mastering a few Do’s and Don’ts can help you change your attitude and become a better connector.
Five Networking Don’ts
- Don’t Get Caught Off GuardOften we’re uncomfortable with the idea of meeting new people because we think we have nothing to say. The solution is to plan ahead: have three topics you’re prepared to talk about.Look for interesting tidbits in the local newspaper, on a morning talk show, even in an entertainment magazine. Go online and find out more about the speaker. Don’t worry about being profound. Just be able to carry on a conversation.
- Don’t Be a Space InvaderAt networking events “in your face” is not a good thing. Have you ever met someone who moves in to greet you and then stays there? The scenario goes like this: someone moves into your space, you move back, they move closer, you move back. Soon you are engaged in a dance around the floor.To avoid being a space invader, always maintain your distance. While preferred distance varies by culture, Americans typically consider three to four feet their “personal space”. Don’t go there.
- Don’t Work the RoomWhen you’re having a conversation give the other person your complete attention. Don’t glance around the room to see who else is there. Or look at your watch. Or gaze out the window.People know if they have your attention. They also can tell when you’re looking for someone more important to talk to.
- Don’t Be PushySometimes it’s good to be aggressive. Sometimes it’s good to wait till you’re asked. When it comes to giving out your business cards go for the latter. We’ve all met pushy people: You’ve barely met them, yet already their business card has found it’s way into your hand.Business cards are a wonderful tool. They are a great way to help people remember you and keep in touch after you’ve made a connection. The operative phrase is “after you’ve made a connection.”What can you do if they don’t ask? Ask them. Most people will reciprocate when you ask for their card. If they don’t, ask them if you may give them your card. At least you’ve given them the courtesy of asking.
- Don’t Be ForgettableTry to avoid answering, “What do you do?” with your title (Senior VP Business Development) or occupation (lawyer). Instead create a 30-second “elevator” speech that explains what you do.Let’s say you sell real estate. Lot’s of people do. So be sure to include a something that makes you stand out. Maybe you are an expert at finding homes for growing families? Maybe you find homes in a hurry? Pick whatever makes you unique. That’s what makes you memorable.Spend some time creating your elevator speech and rehearse it until it comes naturally. Being confidant and relaxed helps to make you memorable.