The 5 Worst Pieces of Networking Advice (And What to Do Instead)

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Authors: David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom
Source: Forbes

The word “networking” has somehow become one of many recent business buzzwords. In fact, the word is so overused that the concept of networking, in our opinion, has lost some of its credibility as a serious business focal point. But, if you think “networking” is much ado about nothing, rest assured: the popularity of the topic is grounded in stringent research. Studies actually prove that diverse interactions, for example, can help ideas grow from sparks of inspiration to fully formed innovations. And, numerous studies, case studies, and interviews have shown that knowing the right people can help you get a foot in the door—a fact that most of us have experienced at some point in our career. But, after being approached “the wrong way” numerous times via social media sites, and in person, we were curious to discover how to do networking the right way, by knowing what we all should avoid. Read on to discover the worst pieces of networking advice—and what you should be doing instead to maximize your contacts and network potential.

Attend every event. Don’t. Instead, prioritize.

People will tell you the more you can network, the better. And that can be true, to a point—but if you’re attending catering conferences even though you’re in the auto business, maybe it’s time to rein it in. We agree with a recent Fast Company article which advises you to consider your needs, personality, and budget when deciding on events. Unless you’ve got endless time, energy, and funds, only attend the events that will make the most of your resources.

It’s all about the first impression. It’s not. You’ve got to follow through.

Everyone knows that when you network, you’ve got to make a great first impression, or your chances for a contact are shot. But while research confirms that first impressions matter, we hate to break it to you: a great first impression won’t instantly lead to an irreplaceable contact. Would you do a professional favor for someone you’ve only met once, briefly, even if you had a great five-minute chat? Probably not. That’s why follow up is crucial. Send an email or make a phone call after your first meeting, and plan to grab lunch or coffee. That way you’ll move past the first impression, and start working on a professional relationship that will pay dividends.

Invent a new you. Don’t. Just put your best foot forward.

Have you ever read a column on networking advice and thought, there’s one type of person these tips apply to…but they don’t really fit me? You’re not alone. But you should know there’s a fine line between being your best self and completely inventing a new personality—with a new wardrobe to match—when you network. Being yourself will not only lead to more authentic interactions, but you’ll make a better and more accurate impression. That’s not to say don’t put your best foot forward, but if you’re an introvert who hates advice like “Always introduce yourself first” or an early riser told to “Attend networking bar nights”—tweak that advice. Distill its true meaning (be confident and take advantage of opportunities, in the examples above) and then apply it so that it really works for you.

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