Effective networking is a powerful tool for making valuable business connections and increasing your likelihood of finding your next great career move — whether a move is imminent or down the road. However, poor networking can be every bit as harmful to your career as good networking is beneficial.
As you’re planning your next networking campaign, keep these 10 do’s and don’ts of effective networking in mind:
- Don’t — go in without a plan. Going to every networking event or emailing everyone in your address book is time-consuming and will ultimately yield unpredictable results. Plus, if you’re clueless at a networking event that’s not a good fit for you, it will be difficult to make good impressions and connections.
- Do — evaluate your objectives. Instead of a shotgun approach, carefully target your networking efforts. What do you want to achieve from all your networking? From each specific event or initiative? Defining an objective will help you craft a plan for achieving it.
- Don’t — limit your channels. Maybe you’re a face-to-face person who doesn’t do as well with emails. Perhaps you’re more comfortable with emails than in-person interactions. However, it’s important to use every available channel that makes sense for your defined objectives.
- Do — choose channels strategically. While a multi-channel approach will serve you best, be sure the channels you choose make sense for you both professionally and personally. For example, if you’re unlikely to meet a relevant connection at a golf outing, your time may be better spent elsewhere, no matter how much you love golf.
- Don’t — make it all about you. To be effective, networking needs to be a two-way street. Your goal for any networking effort is twofold — for your new contacts to learn about you, and for you to learn about them. In addition to offering information about yourself, be sure to ask questions of each new contact that will help you understand what they do, and what they could do for you.
- Do — learn what you can do for your contacts. People remember those who’ve helped them. As you’re cultivating new contacts, be sure to pay attention to opportunities to aid your new connections in some way. An unpaid hand up now may well lead to a paying opportunity in the future.
- Don’t — neglect followup. Nothing’s worse than taking the time to interact with someone and build an initial connection, only to never hear from that person again. Be sure to follow up after every networking effort, even if it’s a quick “It was nice meeting you” message the next day.
- Do — nurture new connections. Following up is just the beginning. Keep connections healthy by nurturing them. This could be as simple as emailing a new contact with a link to an article you think may be of interest to them. Nurturing connections keeps you on their radar, and gives them a positive perception of you.
- Don’t — be a boor. This should go without saying, but it rarely does — don’t be a jerk at networking events. Don’t overindulge in food or drink, overshare personal or professional information, or make someone you meet feel less than important to you. First impressions count, and bad impressions are often the only ones people remember.
- Do — be a friendly professional. People want to be around other people who are pleasant. That means you need to be professional yet friendly during networking events, and courteous during email or phone interactions. More than one study has shown a candidate’s positive attitude and friendly demeanor can sway hiring managers in their favor.