Networking Etiquette: What to Do and What to Avoid

Networking Etiquette

You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and in networking, that first impression could be the deciding factor in whether you have the chance to eventually make a "second" impression. Here are some tips on networking etiquette:

  • Let people know how they can help you. Most people truly do want to help, but don’t know exactly what that looks like. Help them out by being ready with concrete things they can do – like introducing you to their human resources person or another colleague or giving you ideas of other people in the industry you should talk to.

  • Don’t come right out and ask for a job. That can really put people on the spot. Instead, as above, have some ideas of what it is that you want to look for and how they can help. Tell them that you are gathering information and they’ll be more likely to meet with you.

  • Respect their time and boundaries. If someone agrees to have coffee with you, recognize they are doing you a big favor. Make sure to meet where it’s convenient for them and always keep the meeting to the time period they have mentioned. It would be a nice gesture to buy them coffee, too.

  • Share and share alike. Even if you feel like the supplicant, it’s quite possible you have some knowledge that might be helpful to them. It could be anything from a recipe you discussed, to a vacation tip to a contact at a printing place that does a fantastic job.

  • Keep in touch. Even after an initial meeting, it’s a great idea to keep in touch with contacts you have met. Seek them out on social media and comment on or share their updates. If you see an article that might interest them, email them the link with a short note. The goal is to stay top of mind, but also to ensure that the “giving” is not a one-way street.

  • Say thank you. You’d think this would go without saying, but it’s really important. There is no substitute for a hand-written note after a meeting.

  • Have your contact information ready. Don’t make them go searching for you online. Even better, of course, is to make sure that you have their contact information so then the follow-up ball is in your court, not theirs. But, if they ask for a card or a resume, have something professional you can hand to them.

  • Dress the part. You don’t have to go around in a business suit all day long, but you also don’t want to look too casual or sloppy. You want to give off the vibe that you could easily fit into a professional environment. Do everything you can to keep your appearance up, no matter where you are -- who knows who you might run into!

  • Stay upbeat. This can be a hard one, but it’s harder to feel confident with someone who seems down. Do what you can to keep your spirits up, or at least work to put on a happy face when you are out and about.

  • Keep your network informed. Did you finally land a job? What great news! Make sure you share it with those who have helped you, and thank them  again for their time and support – even if it didn’t directly relate to the position you earned.

  • Pay it forward. Always remember the importance of being a good networker from both sides. If you have the opportunity to help someone who is job hunting, remember what that felt like, and how even the smallest kindness was so important.

Good networkers know that it’s a skill you have to work on constantly. And that the best networking feels effortless – because it’s about being friendly and your genuine self.

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