For years I didn’t go to networking events, for all the usual reasons.
I’m too busy, I’m not job-hunting, I’m tired after a full day of work, etc.
I know I should network more than I do, so I’m trying to get to one networking event per month.
I went to an event last night with my co-worker “Ruth.” The event was a mixer and presentation put on by our local newspaper. I had never been to an event with Ruth before.
When we checked in at the registration desk, Ruth told me “Don’t tell anyone at the office, but I’m here to job-hunt.”
I said “Your secret is safe with me.” When we got into the event room, Ruth started walking up to random people, introducing herself and asking each person about job openings in their company. She was very pointed in her questions — almost rude. She asked everyone she met “Could you introduce me to some of the managers in your company?”
I wanted to die of embarrassment. After a couple of minutes I had to leave Ruth’s side and go talk to someone else.
Ruth and I reconnected after a while and I said “Ruth, you can’t approach strangers at a networking event and ask them to help you find a job. They don’t even know you. People are busy. They don’t have time to stop what they’re doing and help a complete stranger job-hunt.”
Ruth said “This is networking — you have to be aggressive!”
I let Ruth do her thing. You could see people in the room moving away from her. Ruth and I didn’t see each for the rest of the evening, but I hated to even be associated with her. Two people I spoke with later in the evening asked me “Is Ruth your friend?” I said “We work together” and changed the subject.
I understand why a job-seeker would want to meet new people, but walking up to unsuspecting attendees at a networking event and trying to enlist them in your job search squad does not seem like the best approach to me. What are your thoughts?
When the idea of purposeful business networking starting taking off about twenty-five years ago, there was a lot of misinformation spread around. Much of that bad networking advice is still shared today.
We hear that networking is all about shaking hands with as many people as possible, and handing out business cards as rapidly as you can. I have been to networking events — maybe you have too — where people were encouraged to get rid of 50 business cards in an hour. If that’s the setup, I’m gone. That isn’t networking to me.
To me, networking means building relationships over time. You can’t withdraw funds from a bank you haven’t made deposits into! Asking strangers for favors is like trying to make a withdrawal from an empty bank account.
I agree with you — why would a perfect stranger be interested in Ruth’s job search, much less use their own time, energy and social capital to help Ruth get hired? Credibility is established slowly.
Trust is built in small steps. Ruth is not showing her best look by accosting people at an event and hitting them up for job search leads. Who would be comfortable recommending Ruth to their manager or HR manager when her interpersonal skills seem so lacking?
Trust your gut, and err on the side of caution when it comes to polite behavior at a networking event.
Here are ten things never, ever to do at a networking event:
1. Sell another attendee a product or service you or your company offers, or try to set up a sales call or appointment with them. Networking and selling are two different things!
2. Ask a stranger to help you job-hunt or to make introductions for you. If you and someone you meet for the first time at a networking event hit if off, you and they can have coffee or lunch later. That coffee or lunch date is a better time to ask your new acquaintance for help and advice than the very first conversation you have with them.
3. Look over your conversational partner’s shoulder to see who else is in attendance — and leave the conversation abruptly if you spot someone you’d rather talk to.
4. Meet as many new people as you can, shoving a business card in each person’s hand and moving on.
5. Make your self-introduction an extended business pitch, a la “Me? I run a full-service marketing agency offering print, web and strategic services throughout the region — in fact we were voted the top agency two years in a row — shall I tell you some of our clients’ names?” Simply say “I lead a marketing agency” and let your conversational partner ask you questions if they want to.
6. Pull out your paper resume or business brochure and hand it to a fellow attendee.
7. Quiz new acquaintances about who they know. It is never polite to ask anyone but a good friend or relative “Who do you know at XYZ Corp?” or “Do you know Bill Gates?” It is actually none of your business who your new contacts know and don’t know. Wait until a real relationship exists, if one ever does, before asking such questions.
8. Drink too much. Every event organizer’s worst nightmare is a drunk attendee!
9. Get into a heated discussion about a sensitive topic, no matter how deeply you care about it. A networking event is not the time or place.
10. Forget to thank the organizers and volunteers on your way out. They work hard to make these events possible, and your “thank you” goes a long way!
I recommend that you pick a different friend to go to networking events with, or go by yourself.
You will grow bigger and bigger muscles every time you walk into a room full of strangers and leave with new friends, new ideas and new motivation for your journey!
All the best,
More Info: www.forbes.com