While many experts have written and expounded on the Do’s and Don’ts of Networking, I have chosen to personalize my points based on my experience.
More often than not I get to attend cocktails and events where I meet and interact with young people looking to grow their networks or looking for better opportunities. I am encouraged by those who walk up to me and engage me in conversation but I am also appalled by those willing to go down the road of familiarity. It may be a casual event but remember, you are acquainting yourself with someone who has never met you or doesn’t remember you. Be respectful.
First, don’t limit yourself to these points. I begin with this as my disclaimer because many of you view lists as the ‘bible’ way of doing things. Lists are meant to be used as guidelines. They give you an idea of what you need to know. As I continue to write my list and you continue to read, please bear the above in mind.
If you’ve come to Network, then Network. I understand that you may have come with a colleague(s) but hiding yourself among those you came with or know will not help you. Have the courage to acquaint yourself with those around you. Remember, there isn’t a perfect way to say hello; take your chances.
CARRY your business cards. This shows that you are not here to bag pray but interested in building business relationships. Tip: I scan all my business cards and keep them in a directory of some sort for future reference.
‘Elevator’ Pitch. The more experience you get the simpler the pitch becomes to execute. You will also realize that you may never use it in an elevator but it will always come in handy whenever a networking opportunity arises or in a meeting.
Less drinking/eating, more listening. This also applies for cocktail events. If you must drink or eat then keep it minimal. But if you can’t control yourself, keep off. I have been to events where I saw some of my employees take advantage of the bar. The outcome was not pleasant. You don’t want to get drunk in front of your boss or potential employers and investors. Even the Bible tells us that if anyone is hungry, they should eat at home.
Follow up. When you meet an acquaintance you have had a pleasant conversation with, it’s only polite to do a follow up email or call expressing gratitude. This will also give you the opportunity to add additional documents or send out any information that was needed but you did not have at hand. You could also send out information that you think would be a worthy read to your relevant network. Give your networks a reason to keep in touch or at least remember you.
These are some of the things that I believe let most young people down. Dress code may be important to others, but to me, I am more interested with what it is you are telling me. While you are doing that, remember to give the other person a chance to speak. Listen and learn.
Wherever you go, keep the basics of networking and make a lasting impression. You will never go wrong.