The Do’s and Don’ts of Professional Networking

Professional networking has evolved greatly over the last few years, as the pressure mounts for an ever-increasing need for influential contacts, the right insight and valuable contacts. Networking is a marketing tool, crucial to the success of you and your business that can take a variety of different forms. From face-to-face business conferences, to less formal coffee or after-work drinks meetings, there are also a wide variety of online and social networking methods including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs.
Networking has the ability to open many windows and doors to anyone at any stage of their career. Meeting and talking to the right people can earn you free advice, awareness of you and your company, word-of-mouth referrals and if done correctly, networking has the potential to gain you credibility, trust, professionalism, knowledge and expertise.
Here are some useful tips to consider when entering your next networking event:

Do:

Attend networking events regularly. It is crucial to showcase yourself and remain active, mingling with other members of the industry. In order to build yourself a positive reputation and presence, professional networking begins with being involved and active with the right crowd.

Don’t:

Shuffle through individuals, like speed dating. This isn’t a game of fishing for as many leads as possible. Even if you are a sales professional scouting new prospects, try to make genuine connections with people who you approach. Listen to their stories, share yours and respond to their challenges.

Do:

Know your elevator pitch – this is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the room as well as other attendees. Be quick, concise and accurate when describing your business. Ensure you engage your listener from the get-go and make it memorable.

Don’t:

Forget to exchange business cards – you never know when someone will need to connect with you. Even if it may be as casual as connecting on Twitter or LinkedIn, today, professional networking can take place in many forms.

Do:

Make eye contact and smile politely to people at networking events. This will make you more approachable. Truly connect with individuals you meet. Discussing other’s stories, challenges, responding to them and acting as a supportive listener will win you more points in the room. As much as you are there to represent yourself and the organisation, you are also there to learn about others. Taking connections to a personal level can work well. Who said you can’t make new genuine friends at networking events? There is no better way to find genuine friendships in a place where there is a possibility of like-minded people working in the same sector.

Don’t:

Forget to send a follow-up email or message and follow their organisation on social media channels. This will give the impression that you genuinely were interested in them and their organisation and will actively want to follow their process and company updates.

Do:

Remain professional and not stalk their personal social media accounts. Unless they have offered to share with you their personal details and agreed to connect with their online profiles.

Don’t:

Limit your network of contacts. Do not be exclusive about who you admit into your sphere. Expand your network to include professionals at varying experience levels, not just your peers. And look outside your industry for potential contacts. You never know who might have the right connections.

Do:

Have patience. Networking is developing strong, long-standing business relationships. Don’t expect to reap the rewards immediately. Maintain your network, be grateful for your contacts, and your attitude ultimately will lead to new opportunities.

Don’t:

Limit networking to when you need something. Networking takes time. You must build mutual respect before your connection is willing to open up his/her network to you. Make a commitment to networking all the time. If you see a profile for someone you’d really like to connect with on LinkedIn, reach out. Ask to set up a time to talk over coffee or by phone once you’ve explained why their profile was of interest and the types of questions you may want to ask. When you become open to people you’ll see your network expanding. It’s the difference of having a nice conversation with someone at a party and choosing to leave it at that or going one step further to ask for their contact information.