No matter what industry you’re in, networking is critical to your overall success. Connecting with new people not only enables you to refine your interpersonal communication skills, but also to ultimately expand your professional opportunities.
Here are four networking mistakes often made and how to avoid them.
1. Feeling too intimidated to attend networking events by yourself. Many people fear attending networking events alone because of the misconception that someone is either innately gifted at networking or they are not. Those that assume they lack this gift believe that networking is therefore not a valuable use of their time. Truth be told, as long as you have a growth mind-set, networking is a skill that can be developed over time.
Instead of passing up opportunities to network, learn how to do it. Apply Dale Carnegie’s 21st principle, ‘Throw down a challenge,’ to develop your list of personal attributes, and the top three strengths that have benefitted your employer. These serve as inputs to your personal brand statement which is a 30 second elevator pitch you can master to feel confident when you introduce yourself. Secondly, pick a few ice-breaker questions and practice them so that when you meet someone new, you’ll be ready to introduce yourself and engage them in a conversation. This is one of the areas taught in the Dale Carnegie Course for Effective Communications and Human Relations.
2. Failing to prepare. Investing some time by conducting research before the event pays major dividends. Find out who will be attending and speaking at a conference so you can hone in on whom you must meet, and learn about them and their employers beforehand. You’ll save tons of time skipping small talk with random people and instead, can quickly connect with the person(s) most important to you. As you ask relevant questions because you took time to prepare, odds are you’ll, ‘Get the other person saying, “yes, yes” immediately,’ Dale Carnegie’s 14th Human Relations principle.
3. Forgetting to capture someone’s contact info. One of the greatest mistakes of my career which I finally learned to fix is giving someone I meet my contact info, but forgetting to ask for theirs! To resolve this, I now connect with someone on LinkedIn shortly after I’ve met them by simply opening my LinkedIn account on my phone. Better yet, I save time by not having to enter their personal contact data.
4. Focusing too much on yourself. Remember the time you felt trapped in a conversation because someone was dominating it with their life story and professional pedigree? When we’re really excited about a topic or idea, it’s easy to make this mistake by doing most of the talking. Instead, apply Mr. Carnegie’s 15th principle, ‘Let the other person do a great deal of the talking,’ by asking them questions. This will enable you to quickly decide if you should dig deeper or move on to another new person.