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10 Networking Faux Pas to Avoid

Networking can be a minefield of social etiquette and strategic interaction, so we sought advice from experienced networkers to illuminate common pitfalls. From being honest about your intention to the importance of providing value, explore the ten crucial networking mistakes these experts caution against.

  • Be Honest About Your Intentions

  • Avoid Paper Business Cards

  • Set Clear Networking Boundaries

  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption

  • Practice Active Listening

  • Appreciate and Maintain Contacts

  • Foster Genuine Relationships

  • Allow Natural Connection Growth

  • Be Discreet with Business Information

  • Focus on Providing Value

Be Honest About Your Intentions

In my experience, I've noticed that sometimes people conceal their true intentions when engaging in professional networking. I think hiding your real agenda is not only unethical, but it can also backfire.

Sometimes, when people are new to networking, they might feel awkward or hesitant about asking for assistance. This leads them to hold back on sharing their actual needs, like looking for a new job, seeking a specific project, wanting a contact at a desired company, or just needing career advice.

A better approach is to be tactful and diplomatic, yet clear about what kind of help you need. People usually respect honesty and can offer more effective assistance when they know what you're after. Also, before you start networking for job opportunities, prepare a brief pitch that outlines the kind of position you're looking for. If you don't let others know you're job hunting, they might not think to mention you for relevant opportunities they come across.

Patrick Beltran, Marketing Director, Ardoz Digital

Avoid Paper Business Cards

In this day and age, giving out paper business cards is a HUGE thing to steer clear of. Other than this practice being antiquated and wasteful, giving out a paper business card to someone does not mean they will do something with it. They might; however, with today's pace, people are just too busy. 

The correct way of doing business is actually connecting with people while you meet them. We do this with digital business cards that enable instantly connecting on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, as well as saving someone's number or just sending them a quick text. 

Even if you don't have time to immediately act on this new connection, or follow up, you are connected and can easily do this at any time in the future. 

Set Clear Networking Boundaries

One networking mistake I've noticed is people not setting ground rules and boundaries. I've seen cases where not setting clear boundaries led to uncomfortable situations. For instance, during a networking event, a colleague shared too much personal information with a potential client, which made the interaction awkward and less professional. 

It's really important to know where to draw the line between personal and work-related conversations. You need to be clear about what topics are okay to talk about, the right times to discuss them, and how much to share. It's also key to let the other person know what your boundaries are. This is especially useful when you're building up your professional network.

If you find yourself or someone you're talking to crossing those boundaries, it's important to put a stop to it, but do it in a nice way. You can explain your limits and, if you're dealing with a customer, get in touch with your Relationship Manager to give them the correct info. Not having clear boundaries or not being sure about what your job involves can really mess up a professional relationship.

Precious Abacan, Marketing Director, Softlist

Moderate Alcohol Consumption

Don't drink too much in networking situations. That's true at formal networking events and more casual professional networking opportunities. I think we've all seen the people who take a nice reception and turn it into a full-blown party. This isn't a great look. You're trying to build your professional network, so it's important to act like a professional. That doesn't mean you need to be uptight and boring, but it absolutely means you need to behave like a leader in your industry and not like someone at a frat party.

Practice Active Listening

Choosing not to actively listen can be a huge mistake during networking. Engaging in a conversation solely to talk about yourself or your interests, without actively listening to others, can make you come across as disinterested or self-centered.

Appreciate and Maintain Contacts

Ghosting your contacts after getting what you want is more common than you might think. Many professionals connect with resourceful people, get what they want, and then disappear until the next time they need something. I wouldn't recommend doing this with people who have gone out of their way to help you.

First, make it a priority to thank the person who offered help and let them know how their efforts helped you. For instance, if someone referred you to a well-known company, express your sincere thanks in a message or even by taking them out for a meal, no matter how busy you are. Keep in touch through social media, or at least with semi-regular personal messages or calls. Approach them at social events and make it a point to have a conversation every time. Ghosting people can make your networking efforts backfire.

I've seen many higher-ups hold grudges against professionals who have used them to advance in the past but failed to acknowledge their help.

Foster Genuine Relationships

One networking mistake to steer clear of is the habit of being overly transactional and neglecting the importance of building genuine relationships. Networking is not just about exchanging business cards or seeking immediate benefits; it's about fostering authentic connections that can lead to mutual support and collaboration in the long term.

For example, I once attended a business event where an individual was solely focused on distributing their business cards and discussing their services without taking the time to understand the needs or interests of others. This approach not only came off as insincere but also failed to establish a meaningful connection. As a result, the person missed out on potential opportunities for collaboration and support from others in the network.

To avoid this mistake, it's essential to approach networking with a mindset of building relationships rather than just seeking immediate gains. Take the time to listen actively, show genuine interest in others' work, and be willing to offer support without expecting an immediate return. Building trust and rapport over time can lead to more fruitful and sustainable connections that benefit both parties in the long run. Networking is not just about what you can get; it's about what you can give and how you can contribute to the success of others in your network.

Allow Natural Connection Growth

When I first launched Bemana, I remember feeling like I had to make connections quickly. I felt behind the competition, as if I'd never catch up. This led me to force some interactions, and in hindsight, I cringe thinking about how I acted: pushy and overly eager. It probably hurt me in the long run.

Nowadays, I'm much more casual about networking. I've realized that the associates that really count are the ones you can truly connect with. It's far better to have fewer strong links than many superficial ones.

So my advice would be to let connections come naturally. Don't panic and rush things; just be your friendly self, and let relationships take their course.

Be Discreet with Business Information

It is advisable for business owners to avoid sharing too much information about their company while networking. Even though it can be beneficial in gaining knowledge, there are people who may use this information to their advantage. If someone learns about your profitable business niche, your customer flow, and your advertising strategy, they can easily become your competition. Therefore, it is important to be cautious about what information you share and with whom.

In the early years of the century, I formed a network with a few people and tried to set an example for young entrepreneurs. Whenever they had any queries, I shared my knowledge with them, as I had years of experience and a degree. One of those individuals, who is younger than me, has now surpassed me in the same industry niche, both in terms of rank and earnings.

Focus on Providing Value

One networking mistake to avoid is talking about oneself excessively during networking and making that the primary focus of conversations. While networking is about creating relationships that can benefit one's personal and professional life, it's crucial not to initiate conversations with that angle, as the person one is speaking to may become disinterested quickly.

A better approach to networking is to ask questions about the other person to understand how one might create value for them. For example, if networking with other real estate professionals, one might inquire about the biggest challenges they are facing or what they need to achieve their next goal. By coming from this perspective, the other party is likely to share areas where they need assistance, and you will have the opportunity to provide a solution and create value. When you do provide a solution for them, the law of reciprocity often leads to that individual seeking ways to help you in return.

An example of why this is so crucial occurred when I attended a professional development event in San Jose, California. There was an individual there who did nothing but talk about her successes and accomplishments. Not surprisingly, whenever she did this, I could see how uncomfortable people became, and they would immediately start looking for reasons to exit the conversation. This is why it's essential to stay focused on the other person and find ways to provide value for them.


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