The Do’s and Don’ts of Networking

Moments before you walk into a networking event is there a pit in your stomach? Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m always so awkward at networking events,” “they won’t take me seriously because I’m so young,” or “I’m probably going to say something wrong and embarrassing.”…and then you’ve convinced yourself you shouldn’t go. We get it, networking can be awkward, but it’s also a vital component in career growth and builds deeper relationships in a professional setting.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before you dive into your next professional networking event to maximize the experience and make your network work for you.

Do: Show your skills, experience, and other accomplishments.

Predominantly, professional conversations involve asking someone about their current position and experience. In your response, focus on what you like about your job. Talk about any recent projects you enjoy, or the new skills you’re learning. It will demonstrate your passion and dedication while setting the tone for the conversation. Networking isn’t necessarily about getting a job, but about sharing knowledge.

Another way to demonstrate your experience is actively listening to their responses. Are there ways you can help them? Networks should be mutually beneficial relationships. If they mention a problem, can you fix it or connect them with the people and resources that would help them? 

Don’t: Sound like you’re desperate 

Networking is not the palace to beg someone to hire you. People go to events to meet other individuals in the industry or their area, not necessarily to find new people to hire. Find the balance between persuasively selling your skills and holding a conversation. You don’t want to sound too sales-y as people don’t like the feeling that they’re being sold to.

Do: Share your learning resources

You want to be a good connection as much as you want to find one. The books, podcasts, online courses, seminars, mentors, etc. that helped you are equally as valuable to someone else. By sharing those resources, people will also want to pay you back and share their resources as well. 

Don’t: Talk down to others if they have less experience 

No matter how many years of experience you have over someone else, do not speak down to them. Networks are mutually respectful relationships. You do not want to discredit anyone’s learning journey. Remember that you were in their shoes not too long ago. How would you want an executive to treat you when you were at their level? 

Do: Engage with their personal interests

Build a lasting network through personal relationships. You want to invest in the individual as a person. Who they are, their morals, and their community is equally as important as their professional life. Consider networking as an extension of meeting new friends. So, ask them about their interests and hobbies. Find those mutual connections to form a relationship.

Don’t: Leave after getting the information you want

Do not bring a list of needs or questions to a networking event. If they do not have what you want or the answers you’re looking for, then you will be visibly disappointed. The relationships you make are worth more than one job or an industry tip. No one wants to feel used for their knowledge or resources. 

Do: Have good posture and manners 

Expressing confidence and professionalism is also about how you physically carry yourself. Smile, show good posture, and make eye contact with the person you are speaking with. Try not to slurp your drinks or chew with your mouth open. Be conscious of your body language and tone of voice. And, above all, dress appropriately.  

Don’t: Pretend to be something your not

Lying will only get you in trouble. Show them your true personality and stick with your core values. If they do not accept you for you, then they were not meant to be a part of your network. Check out this article on how to show up as your authentic self.

Do: Keep an open mind

You never know who someone knows. They might not be able to get you that job, but they know a recruiter who is looking for someone. They may not have the ability to help you get more clients, but they know a business consultant who can. Always carry business cards or other promotional materials since you never know who you’re going to meet. It also provides them with contact information they can use after the event to follow-up with you or pass along to someone else. 

Don’t: Limit yourself

A common misconception about networking is that you need to limit yourself to events in your industry or labeled as networking. While these events are important investments in your career, they aren’t the only opportunities.

Networking is all around you. Start with your friends, family, and the local community. Who goes to the same coffee shops and cafes as you? What about your hobbies and interests and the communities that stem from those? It can take a while to build up presence and trust in a community, but they are an excellent and untapped resources for professional networking.

Grow your network and gain access to unlimited networking opportunities with IAW. Professional women all around the globe can find local chapters, weekly events, entrepreneurial support, and career resources at a touch of a button. Check out our upcoming events this week or find out more about IAW member benefits.

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