Although networking is perhaps the best way to find a new job, many people approach it in an all-too-casual way. Here are eight networking mistakes to steer clear of when trying to make lasting connections with others in your field.
Before you attend a networking event, know why you’re there. Can a new contact help you meet someone at an organization where you’d like to work? Are you hoping to find a mentor? Do you need some specific information about changing fields? If you don’t know, the people whom you meet won’t be able to help you.
Yes, people do want to learn something about you. However, they’ll be genuinely flattered when you want to know about them. If you’re not sure what questions to pose, try these suggestions: Tell me about your organization? … How did you get started? … What are your biggest challenges?
Don’t explain what you do, explain the benefit of what you do. Don’t say, “I’m the executive assistant to the finance director of Company X.” Say, “The finance director of Company X relies on me to keep her organized for every meeting … every business trip … every eventuality.” This lets others know how you can positively impact an organization.
It’s extremely embarrassing to search for a piece of paper on which to jot down your information after you’ve made a professional connection. If you must, tape a note to your front door that you’ll see on your way out that says, “Bring business cards!”
Write a few notes on the back of the other person’s business card. This will help jog your memory about your discussion and their personal details after the event. And don’t forget to write down their information in a database or a rolodex for easy access.
Follow up your conversations with a thank-you note, email, or call. Tell your contacts whether their or suggestions or referrals worked out. You want to keep these folks your network—and return the favor should they need your help down the road.
Don’t drop off the face of the earth after you’ve established a relationship. Look for articles or information of interest to your contacts and send it, in an email or with a note, to let them know you’ve thought of them.
Don’t start networking after you’ve lost a job. The best time to begin is … now!