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5 Networking Mistakes to Try to Avoid

Networking can bring about anxiety and stress for anyone. But love it or hate it, networking plays a key role in job growth. Here's how to avoid committing five common networking blunders that could potentially impact your professional image.

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1. Card Blasting and Collecting

Handing out cards left and right, and racking up a stack in return, can come across as disingenuous. The point of networking isn't simply collecting contacts. Rather, the value lies in making connections with people and discovering how you can benefit each other's career paths.

2. An Inauthentic Approach

You've probably heard the advice to "just be yourself" throughout your life but this holds true in the business world, as well.

When you're networking, you want to put your best foot forward – but you must do it authentically. Instead of exaggerating or boasting, let your experience and knowledge shine through naturally. You'll come across as confident and someone who's worth getting to know.

3. Overworking the Room

When you're at a networking event, it's all too easy to fall into the trap of trying to connect with as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. It's a given that you want to grow your network sooner rather than later. But talking to everyone for a few minutes might not allow for the creation of deeper, meaningful connections that lie at the heart of successful networking.

Rather than trying to speak with everyone for a short period of time, take a deeper dive with fewer people. Focus your efforts on those that can teach you and with whom you can build mutually beneficial relationships.

4. The Hard Sell

When you're attending a networking event, it's fine to talk about your business or your successes. However, keep in mind that a "hard sell" approach may not be appreciated or effective.

An aggressive or pushy approach may backfire, turning off potential prospects. Your goal should lie in marketing, rather than selling, yourself.

What's the difference? When you're selling, your focus is on yourself and your accomplishments. When you're marketing, you're making an effort to learn about your audience and best understand how you can offer value to them.

5. Not Minding Your Manners

At its core, networking is a social activity. Manners matter, and a polite demeanor can go a long way toward establishing trust.

As a general rule:

  • Avoid interrupting or talking over people
  • Pay attention and really listen during conversations, rather than looking around the room to identify your next target
  • Resist the temptation to "hide" by playing on your phone
  • Don't ask for a business referral from someone you've just met
  • Approach people with a "giving" rather than "taking" mindset
  • Don't hijack conversations by talking only about yourself
  • Remember to use common courtesy – say thank you and express appreciation that others have taken the time to interact

It's easy to make networking mistakes, but an awareness of these common mistakes will help you enjoy an effective, successful networking experience.

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