Some people have a natural ability to network. They can fearlessly enter a room, strike up a conversation with anybody, exude confidence, and walk away with a dozen new friends and business contacts. But for many of us, networking is an acquired art. Sometimes a painfully acquired art.
I recently had the opportunity to watch various people practice their networking skills (I’m an inveterate people watcher, in case you didn’t know), and got to meet some genuine networking artists, a few artists-in-training, and one memorable my-kindergartener-could-have-painted-better-than-that.
I’ll call him Jack. That’s not his real name, but it’s apt. Halfway through a three-day event, many people were calling him Jack, only with three additional letters attached.
When It Comes To Networking, Don’t Be A Jack
- Don’t make distribution of your business cards the sole focus of your networking efforts.
- Do not introduce yourself with a long-winded and too-obviously rehearsed list of credentials, in a “my-letters-are-bigger-than-your-letters” kind of a way.
- Don’t monopolize conversations. If you know less about the person you’ve just talked to than they know about you, there’s a problem with your networking approach.
- If you are going to follow the fake-it-until-you-make-it model of business development, be credible. Nobody is going to believe that a guy from Brazil just sent you a check for tens of thousands of dollars for unspecified services, especially when, if asked for details, your story deflates like a suddenly untied balloon.
- Don’t be the self-appointed conference commentator. Don’t ask so many questions during conference presentations and panel discussions that you take the program off track. It really isn’t all about you.
- Do not bring a world-weary “in-my-day” attitude to a networking event. Or anywhere, really.
- Don’t tell people what they are doing wrong with their business, their job search, their life, and how they could be millionaires – or hundred-thousand-aires – if they just follow your advice.
Everybody has a purpose in life. In some cases, it’s to be the bad example. I’m sure Jack has a much bigger purpose on this earth, but for me, he will eternally be my example of how not to network.
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