6 Common Networking Mistakes You Should Always Avoid
With practice, most graduates can become decent networkers. But sometimes, even the most capable graduate networker might run the chance of slipping up – especially if you’re a networking newbie!
While you are encouraged to find your own networking style through practice, trial, and error, research is still key in everything you do. Here is a list of networking gaffes that you should definitely avoid:
1. Making it all about you
“I’m not bragging, really, but my CGPA is the highest within my batch. I’ve also been told that I’m pretty good at teamwork and humble."
“My dad told me that, y’know? He’s a manager in Company X, and he’s been giving me a lot of advice about these kind of things. My mom tells me the same thing – she’s with Company Y – and she’s been handling teams for a really long time.”
As a graduate fresh out of university, you’re raring to prove yourself. Employers get that, and they’re usually happy to help you realise your worth, but there is a limit to how much you should talk about yourself.
Sharing your background, skills, and aspirations with new contacts is important and acceptable, but recounting your life story is just overkill!
Ultimately, you’re networking to find out more about other people and the industry, so spend more time listening instead! Speak to people involved in your targeted industries, and ask them questions. How did they start? Why do they love their job? How did they overcome obstacles at their work?
Try to ask questions that are related to their personal experiences, instead of general questions. What you’re interested in is an insider’s view of the situation, after all.
2. Getting a bit too personal
“Well, it takes quite a bit of patience to work in this department, you see, so you will have to develop that early on, especially if you’re a new graduate.”
“I see. *laughs* How about you? Did you develop your patience through dealing with your husband?”
While we certainly encourage you to ask others about their personal experiences, what we meant was their personal experiences at work – not their personal lives.
Even if it’s for the sake of sounding witty or making a point, comments and questions about recruiters’ personal lives are almost always unnecessarily intrusive. The same goes for questions about how much the company is paying them too.
Avoid personal comments and queries at all cost! Stick to common and “safe” small talk subjects instead, such as travel, hobbies, films, sports, or food.
Asking about your contacts’ weekend plans is usually acceptable, but observe their response to decide on your reply. If their answers are short and curt, then it’s time to change the subject or excuse yourself to get a drink.
Other inappropriate questions to ask include those relating to age, love life, family (unless the other party brings this up first), politics, and religion.
3. Expecting a favour
“Hi, I’m Z, nice to meet you.”
“Oh hi! I’m M from Company F, nice to meet you too.”
“Great! Well M, I did really well at uni… so, think you can get me an interview?”
No matter how long you just spent speaking to them, never ever ask for something from someone you’ve just met.
Networking is an avenue for you to build rapport with your connections, not for you to outright ask for employment opportunities or any favours. Hard selling yourself will only mark you as undesirable – or worse, desperate and opportunistic – in your contacts’ books.
Think of time as a form of currency when networking. You’re already asking for your contacts’ time and attention, and unless you can “repay” their “investment”, it would be unfair to ask them for anything more.
Treat networking as a long-term investment, instead of something that will give you an immediate outcome. For instance, if you are networking with contacts from your target company, let them know of your interest in working with them, but go no further beyond that until you’re sure that your relationship is comfortable enough for any sort of proposition.
4. Not following up
“I would be interested to check out that article you’re talking about, actually.”
“Really? Then if it’s not too much trouble, I’ll email it to you by tonight or tomorrow!”
“Sure, why not?”
*For whatever reasons – does not email as promised*
Contrary to popular belief, networking doesn’t end with the final handshake or the last goodbye of the night. Instead, it is a continuous process that will only end if you want it to.
For this reason, follow-ups are immensely important because it guarantees a continuity. This makes it easier for you to resume communication with a contact the next time you see him or her at another event.
Following up also ensures your reputation as a responsible networker. As in the case of the situation above, not sending over something you’ve promised – no matter how seemingly small or insignificant – implies sloppiness.
If you’ve promised to do something for a networking contact – whether it’s to connect them with someone or to send something to them – do it. Even if they don’t remember you, you can be sure that they’ll be grateful for your time and effort.
If you need a reminder, bring a notebook with you to take notes, or key the promised tasks into your phone. Alternatively, you can also write down your follow-up actions on contacts’ business cards (but not while they’re looking!), giving you easy access to their name and details as well.
If you’ve made a suggestion to a networking contact, you can also follow up by asking about his or her situation. Sending a thank-you email to thank them for their time is another way to go.
5. Name-dropping without permission
“Hi! I was actually referred to you by J regarding this matter…”
“…Oh, J did?”
“Well, J told me about you, so I assumed I could call.”
Many people see no harm in “borrowing” friends’ names to open doors to some opportunities – without their permission. After all, it’s just a name, right?
Well, if anything, it’s quite the reverse! Using an acquaintance’s name without permission reflects on your integrity as a networker, and may smear your reputation if you’re found out. Not everyone is comfortable with their name being used as a door-opener, nor should you make any such assumptions in the first place.
Treat names and introductions as someone else’s property – you should always obtain permission from your contact, even it’s for simple introductions like, “Hi, I’m friends with [name]”. Not only is this proper etiquette, it also displays your loyalty and trustworthiness.
Asking for permission before name-dropping can also be helpful in another manner: your friend or contact might be moved to help handle the introduction for you! You’ll find that to be more helpful than any name-dropping can be.
6. Eating and networking
“Hi, I’m *NOM NOM NOM* Z, nice to meet you.”
“Oh hi! I’m M from Company F, nice to meet you too.”
“So which *NOM NOM NOM* department do you *NOM NOM NOM* work in?”
Food and drinks are usually provided by the event organiser, and while you may be starving after missing your breakfast during your rush to arrive in time for the event, do mind your manners!
It’s generally acceptable for people to eat during a networking lunch or dinner, but be sure to mind common manners. Never smack your lips, talk with your mouth full, or burp out loud while speaking with others!
Seated lunches are generally straightforward enough, and you’ll find food to be an immensely relatable small talk topic. Still, don’t go around carrying your filled-up plate all over the place. You might end up dropping it, and that never looks good.
However, you are encouraged to always have a drink in your hand for two main reasons. For one, it keeps your hands occupied – something which can help you relax when you need a small distraction from the conversation. Secondly, having a drink within reach also means that you’ll have access to easy hydration, which is very important considering you’ll be speaking more than usual.