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6 Common Traps to Avoid at Networking Events

6 Common Traps to Avoid at Networking Events

by Ginny Hogan

Networking events are the watering holes of the professional world.  They’re where connections are made, opportunities are discovered, careers are shaped, and free snacks are had.  However, just like any social gathering, there are unspoken rules-faux pas that can turn a potential career elevator into a free-fall.  To avoid stepping on it, consider the following six tips.

  1. Don’t Oversell Yourself. No offense, but you’re not that great.  And even if you are, people don’t want to hear about it at a networking event.  Resist the urge to transform into a walking, talking informercial.  Yes, you’re amazing at what you do, but relentless self-promotion can be off-putting.  It’s like being at a party where someone keeps shoving their homemade guacamole in you face-it might be the best guac in the world, but let people come to it naturally.  There is, after all, a lot of guacamole in the world.  Instead, focus on building genuine connections.  Networking is a marathon, not a sprint.
  2. Avoid the “Me, Myself and I” Monologue. If your conversation sounds more like a monologue, you’re doing it wrong. Domineering the conversation like a talk show host gone rogue means you’re probably not listening. Remember, it’s a dialogue, not a soliloquy. Be curious about others. Ask questions, show interest in their work, and let the conversation flow naturally. Think of it as a tennis match, not a solo chess game.
  3.  Don’t Be a Business Card Ninja. Handing out business cards like you’re dealing a deck of cards in Vegas is a no-no. Everyone’s online, so a physical card is…kinda humiliating. The goal is to create meaningful connections, not hit a quota. Quality trumps quantity. It’s better to leave the event with a few meaningful contacts than a pocket full of cards from people whose faces you can’t recall. Distribute your business card when a genuine connection is made, not as an opening move.
  4. Steer Clear of Controversial Topics. This one should be obvious, but it’s astonishing how often it’s overlooked. Avoid controversial topics like politics, religion, or personal gossip (unless it’s, like, really good gossip, about someone you know they hate). You’re not on a debate team, and this isn’t the time to showcase your strong opinions on the latest political drama. Stick to safe, neutral topics. Think of it as a dinner with the in-laws–play it safe (and avoid it if possible).
  5. Don’t Underestimate Anyone. Treating someone as unimportant because they don’t seem like a high-flyer is a huge mistake. Also, it’s rude. Everyone has something to offer, and you never know who might be instrumental in your career down the line. Networking karma is real. Treat everyone with respect and interest – the intern today could be the CEO tomorrow. Remember, it’s a small world, and you’re likely to run into the same people again.
  6. Avoid Being Glued To Your Phone. In a world where our phones are like extensions of our bodies, this is tough. But being glued to your screen at a networking event is a no-no. Be present. Engage with the people around you. Your emails can wait – the opportunity to make a meaningful connection might not.

Networking events are unique platforms for professional growth and opportunity. However, they require a certain finesse. Remember, the goal of networking is to build relationships, not just to add names to your contact list. So, the next time you find yourself at one of these events, be genuine, be respectful, and most importantly, be yourself. After all, the best connections are the ones that are authentically made.

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