7 Networking Mistakes You Should Avoid at All Costs

If you desire to move forward in your career, you’ll need to brush up on your networking skills. The thought of interacting with people you may not know very well and selling what you have to offer may be nerve-wracking, but it’s a necessary evil if you want to make meaningful career moves. How do you network without making a bad impression? The Cheat Sheet consulted Vicki Salemi, a careers expert at Monster, and Chelsea Krost, brand consultant and host of The Chelsea Krost Show, for advice on how to put your best foot forward. Here are the top networking mistakes you need to avoid at all costs.

1. Talking too much

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Networking should involve some give and take. Don’t dominate the conversation and go on and on about how wonderful you are. Sure, you may be pretty amazing, but you should remember to rein it in a bit when you are meeting a new business contact. Krost says this is one of the keys to giving a good first impression.

“Definitely work on crafting your elevator pitch. Networking should be short, sweet, and to the point. Don’t talk too much; instead ask questions so you can decide how to best present yourself for future collaborations,” she explained. 

2. Asking for too much too soon

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Resist the urge to make requests too quickly. No one is obligated to give you a chance. Remember to be respectful and not assume that someone owes you something.

“I was recently at a dinner party and literally right after I indicated what I do, a woman sitting next to me asked if I could help get her a job. Way too soon! I didn’t even know what she did for a living and what type of role she’s looking for. Most importantly, she was assuming I would help a stranger without having any clues to her work ethic and attitude,” said Salemi.

3. Not following up

writing, journal

Source: iStock

How can you expect to make a connection if you don’t follow up? Salemi says it’s important to make sure that you check in. When you leave things up to chance, there’s a possibility of missing out on an opportunity that could have propelled your career.

“You may have established rapport with someone, exchanged cards, and then it immediately fizzles. Within 48 hours of the event, while the conversation is fresh in both of your minds, send an email asking for a follow-up conversation,” Salemi advises. “Better yet, as the conversation concludes in person, take out your phones and sync your calendars right then and there to get a follow-up conversation on the books.”

4. Waiting too long to follow up

commute, train, phone

Source: iStock

If you took our advice and followed up, good for you. However, if you followed up weeks — or months — after you met your contact, that’s not so good. Make sure to be prompt in all of your communications. In today’s technology-filled world, people get distracted and tend to forget things more easily. Most people are too busy to remember every single person they meet. Waiting too long to follow up is just as bad as not following up at all.

“I am very diligent with the time frame in which I follow up with people. The sweet spot is between 48 to 72 hours. People are busy and we tend to forget things fast, so make a good first impression, ask the right questions, and then follow up with them on a solution or idea of how you can work together! The less they have to think, the better,” advises Krost.

5. Being unprepared

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Don’t expect to get results if you’re not prepared to network. Any activities related to your career advancement should be taken seriously. If you don’t put in the work by taking time to prepare for a networking event, you cannot expect to get to where you want to be. Salemi says you have to get it together if you want to advance.

“Be prepared. If you’re going to an industry networking event, cocktail party, or anything where you have an idea of who the guests will be in attendance, figure out ahead of time who you’re specifically looking to meet. Do your homework and spend some time visiting their company website and more,” she said.

Also have a pitch ready for those moments when you meet a potential business connection unexpectedly. Any conversation could be a chance to network with someone who could be a resource. Chatting with someone in line at the supermarket or in a coffee shop could prove to be an opportunity of a lifetime.

“Regardless of the audience, in particular if you don’t know who they’ll be or better yet, who you’re chatting with in the line at Starbucks, prepare yourself with an authentic, confident, and clear elevator pitch outlining what you do,” Salemi added. 

6. Mismatched social media handles

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

If you want your contacts to be able to locate you, make sure your social media accounts have easily identifiable names. Krost recommends that all of your accounts match:

“Make sure that all of your social handles are the same name so that it makes it easier for people to find you. Be sure to have a clear headshot, solid bio, and your contact information listed on each of your profile accounts. Some of the best networking happens in the social space today. I love me some Twitter!”

7. Not saying ‘thank you’

thank you, gratitude, letter, writing

Source: Thinkstock

One of the worst networking offenses is not showing gratitude. If someone puts their reputation on the line to help you out, the least you can do is say thank you. Being ungrateful will make a lasting impression — just not a good one.

“One more mistake I’ve seen boils down to not thanking the person. It’s simply good manners but also positively reinforces the person for making an introduction. If someone introduced you to someone and even if the new meeting didn’t lead to open doors, definitely circle back to the connector and say thank you. It keeps the lines of communication open with them,” Salemi said.

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: