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We all know how important networking is for professional success. And whether or not you’re looking for a new career opportunity, networking should be an essential part of your professional life. Here are the top 10 networking mistakes to avoid as you set out to your next event:
1. Starting too late. Don’t wait until you lose a job to start networking. The most effective networking starts by making contacts and building relationships while you’re still employed.
2. Not starting at all. Many people are happily employed and do not think that networking is important or needed. This is a serious misconception. Networking can be of great value to you in your current job as it helps you build contacts that can be valuable to you and your current employer. Each week pick one or two people from your contact list who you have not spoken to for some time. Contact those people to catch up. This is an amazingly productive way to use 30 minutes or less of your time.
3. Being unprepared. Most people spend time preparing for an interview, but how much time do you spend preparing for networking? Before going to an event, practice answering questions about your professional experience, personal interests, and career goals. Keep your answers informal in manner and around a minute or two in length.
4. Not going beyond social media networks. Social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook provide a great way to connect with people. But you can’t sit back and think these connections alone are enough. Meeting people face to face still plays an important role in professional networking today. On that note, don’t be glued to your phone during events! Consider shutting your phone off completely.
5. Forgetting your business cards. Be prepared by having plenty of business cards on hand when attending networking events. It’s much more professional than having to jot down your contact information on a handout or napkin. Use the backside of the cards you collect to note where and when you met the contact and what you talked about.
6. Talking too much. Be sure not to dominate the conversation. Ask questions and listen to what others have to say. This will leave a favorable impression with the people you meet.
7. Creating unprofessional social networking profiles. Today, new networking contacts may follow up with each other on one or more social networking sites. So be sure your profiles are professional, with content and photos that won’t hurt your reputation.
8. Not mingling enough. When you’re at a networking event, be careful not to gravitate to people you already know or monopolize any one person’s time. Mingling may be a little out of your comfort zone, but the idea is to meet more than two or three people at an event. If the event is a “sit down” event, always sit with people you DO NOT know.
9. Dressing down. Be sure you make a great first impression by dressing impeccably for networking events. Plus, just as you would in a job interview, demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm by making eye contact and shaking hands firmly with everyone you meet. Every networking contact is important. You never know who they know or what they will say about you.
10. Taking a self-centered approach. When you can, help others make connections. This is the key to successful networking.
11. Failing to follow up. Meeting someone at a networking event is just the first step. So be sure to follow up – with a phone call or email – within a few days of making the connection.
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