Top Networking Mistakes to Avoid

What not to do when you meet someone for the first time

Posted Sep 12, 2019

Monkey Business - Fotolia
Source: Monkey Business - Fotolia

Networking can be overwhelming for many of us.  It certainly was for me when I first started.  I would like to share some pitfalls you should avoid when networking. 

Before doing so, I ask that you create objectives for each networking event you attend.  It’s important to think ahead what you want to get out of the networking event. 

Whether it’s learning a new skill, expanding your professional network, or developing new business prospects, having a goal in mind will help you measure success. 

I ask that you consider the following six pitfalls when you are networking.  These pitfalls will hurt your networking success.  In no particular order:

Pitfall No. 1 is what I call “Resume Me” 

“Resume me” means that you are sharing your entire resume with someone whom you barely know in 30 to 60 seconds.   For example, let’s say I just met you and you ask me more about my background…I respond by saying,

“I graduated with my finance degree from Pace University, then started my career at American Express where I became a Six Sigma Blackbelt, and then went back to get my Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Columbia University, then moved to the UK to lead a large transformation, then came back to NY and then joined Morgan Stanley…”

As you can see, that’s simply too much information to share.  If you happen to do this when networking, my ask is that you don’t do it. 

The goal is to be memorable and blurting out everything you have done will not only make you unmemorable, it will overwhelm the person you just met. 

Instead, I recommend that you use your elevator pitch.  In case you don’t have an elevator pitch, then simply focus on one or two things that you think will help you build rapport.

Pitfall No. 2 is Asking for a Job 

When meeting a person for the first time, asking for a job is a big no no.   Not only are you going to make the person uncomfortable, it will make the person feel like you are only there to use them. 

Even if the person is willing to help you out, the other factor to consider is credibility.  How can the person you just met provide a credible introduction if they don’t know you? 

Instead, wait until you have met the person several times and perhaps in the 3rd or 4th interaction raise the point of looking for a new role. 

Networking is like growing a flower.  You plant a seed, you water it, give it food, give it love and it will flourish in time.  Networking is not a one and done type of activity.  Keep this in mind when you are building your network.

Pitfall No. 3 is Not Remembering A Person’s Name

When meeting someone new, the worst thing you can do is either forget their name or mispronounce it.  The best thing to do to recall a person’s name is to repeat it several times in your conversation. 

Some people use mnemonics as a way to remember names.  For example, Bernardo could be associated with West Side Story or St. Bernard or Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s (don’t call me Bernie).  Regardless, remembering a person’s name is very important. 

Worst case scenario, if you don’t remember a person’s name, simply apologize and ask for it again.  Don’t attempt to guess. You may make matters worse.

Pitfall No. 4 is Blindly Handing Out Your Business Cards

I’ve seen this happen many times where someone has a stack of business cards and is giving them away as if they were free flyers. 

A) You’re wasting your money in getting business cards if you do this because chances are people will most likely throw them out or leave them at the table.

B) You’re doing a disservice to yourself because you are not building rapport with the person receiving the card. 

If you are going to give out your business card give thought as to why you’re doing so. 

Pitfall No. 5 is Overdrinking

Many times, free networking events offer some free alcohol or, if it’s a paid networking event, an open bar.  Either way, networking events are not designed for you to get drunk. 

Always remember this is a professional setting and you have prospective employers, clients, peers who will remember you for all the wrong reasons if you overdrink. 

My advice is to have either two drinks max or ask the bartender to make you a mocktail.  In the event the bartender has a limited bar, ask for a seltzer with lime in the glass used for gin and tonics. 

Pitfall No. 6 is Feel Compelled to Meet Everyone

We all feel pressure to meet everyone in the room but the reality is that you don’t need to meet everyone.  Focus on one to three people max.  Invest your time to get to know the person. 

Spend 20 to 30 minutes building a relationship with two to three people versus 5 to 10 minutes with 30 to 40 people.  My advice is quality vs. quantity. 

My other piece of advice is to not dismiss someone because the person does not share the same background as you. 

I’ve seen this happen many times where one person is from banking and the other is from a foundation and they both immediately believe they don’t have something in common; as a result, they miss the opportunity to network. 

Always remember you don’t know who that person knows.  Don’t be quick to dismiss someone just because they work in a different industry.  You are there to network – so network.  Find common ground to build rapport.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful.  If you enjoy reading and want to learn more about networking, I recommend the following books, which I found helpful when I started networking. 

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi  

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Feel free to let me know if you have other pitfalls you would add to this list.  If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to reach out via Twitter @ProfessorTirado.

Bernardo Tirado, PMP

Bernardo is a Behavioral Scientist and Industrial Psychologist with certifications in Six Sigma, Project Management, and Agile/Scrum.  He covers leadership and technology for PsychologyToday.com

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