Networking Do’s and Don’ts

Have you ever felt that you didn’t belong in a particular situation?  Say you are married and you go out with a few of your single friends for an evening.  You may feel uncomfortable and decide that you don’t belong.  It doesn’t make for a very fun evening.  Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with your business and networking.

There are going to be times that you are outside of your element, but you need to make the best of any situation.  When you are at a networking event, you may feel that same feeling you did when you were the only married one out of your group of friends.  The good thing is:  It’s always your choice to make the best or worst of the situation!

I have compiled a starting list for you to consider:

DO’S:

-Keep in contact with your network.

It is important to stay fresh in the minds of who you are networking with.  Sending a holiday card or an e-mail to ask how their kids’ sports teams are doing are a few ways to keep in contact with your network on a genuine basis.

-Build relationships, not expectations

Be genuine, and get to know the people in your network.  Building a relationship with a person is way more valuable than networking with them and expecting something in return.

-Make a good first impression

First impressions are very important; we hear that constantly.  It applies to your networking goals as well.  No matter what you do, the first impression someone gets is everlasting!  Make it a good one.

-Dress for success

You may be comfortable wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and your business may allow you to do so.  If you are attending a networking event where people are looking more professional, you should too!  Taking the time to make yourself look your best will help you portray confidence.  People seek out confident people to network with, so be that person everyone is seeking out!

-Fake it till you make it.

If you’re intimidated or shy or hesitant to get involved or start a conversation, pretend like you’re a friendly, outgoing and confident person and do it anyway. As a former shy person, I’ve used this strategy hundreds of times over the course of my life to help me move forward and make connections. I used to say to myself “Pretend like you’re a friendly and outgoing person, and you will be a friendly and outgoing person.”

I even used this tactic when I was younger and put in charge of running my own branch (and later, district) office. I’d tell myself “Pretend like you’re a district manager, and you’ll be a district manager. People coming in here to apply for a position don’t see you as anything but professional and in charge. They have no idea you’re uncomfortable unless you telegraph that.”

And guess what? It worked. I ran a successful branch and district office. I had the respect of my people as well as my peers and superiors in the business. All because I did what I needed to do, I was good at it, and I didn’t telegraph my discomfort and lack of confidence.

And the bonus was that the longer I “pretended” to be confident, the easier it was to forget I was “pretending.” Then I wasn’t pretending anymore – I actually was confident and successful.

So … take it, use it, own that phrase: Fake it till you make it. It works!

DON’TS:

-Don’t be a business card collector

It’s great to have business cards for people in your network, and it’s a great idea to give out your business card when networking with others.  Just don’t collect business cards.  Take the time to form a genuine relationship with the people you are meeting.  If you have nothing in common or don’t see a mutual benefit from being a part of each other’s networks, don’t exchange business cards.

-Don’t talk about yourself all the time

No one likes a self-centered person who focuses on themselves the entire time.  People will actually be drawn to you more if you listen to them talk about themselves.  Taking the time to listen to another person talk and showing interest in what they are saying is way more valuable than talking about yourself the entire time.  After all, we were given two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk.

-Don’t expect anything from people

Networking will benefit you in the long run, but it should not be your immediate goal.  Building a network and connecting other people is just as important.  If you are the type of networker who makes connections between two other people, they will keep you in mind when they are trying to do the same.

-Don’t wait for someone to talk to you

Take the initiative!  Go talk to them!  Put yourself out there and meet people.  The girls gathered in the corner with their friends at the high school dance are not the ones that the guy asks to dance with him.  He asks the girl out in the middle of the dance floor making the best of the night.

-DON’T BE SHY!!!

Along the same lines, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  You have nothing to lose, only something to gain.  Put a smile on your face, be confident, and don’t be shy! And if you are shy, remember those six little words:

Fake It Till You Make It

Now that you know what  to do and not do to make the best of your networking experience, why not CHOOSE to make it a GREAT EXPERIENCE!

Remember, this is just a starting point.  There are many other things that could help/hurt your networking efforts.  Please share your feelings about the do’s and don’ts listed above and your own networking do’s and don’ts based on your experiences.