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Posted: December 18, 2012

Top 10 deadly networking mistakes

If you make me sick, it's not going to help you

John Heckers

(Publisher’s note: We’re saddened to report that John Heckers, a favorite contributing author of ours, passed away recently. John did much to help establish ColoradoBiz Exclusives as the thoughtful, provocative media platform it is today. In memoriam, we’re publishing a series of John’s most popular columns over the next few weeks. It’s the least we can do. RIP, John.)

Everyone probably knows that the only effective way to find employment in this market is to network. But too many networkers make deadly networking errors that can actually hurt them, rather than help them. Here are a few infamous ones.

1). Collecting names and business cards. Some people think that networking is about collecting as many business cards as possible. It isn't. Networking is about helping others and, in return, receiving help. If you're just going to a networking event to collect cards, you're wasting time and money. It can also impede your search in that you feel like, by collecting cards, you're doing something useful, which keeps you from the anxiety that drives you to actually DO something useful.

2). Going ill. One woman came to one of our networking events clearly very ill, and infected several people there with her creeping crud. Need I say that those she infected don't feel very positive toward her. If you're sick, the best place to be is in your bed, not at a networking event.

3). Inappropriate attire. If it is a business/professional event, go business/professional or don't go. If the organizers of the event aren't clear about suggested attire, call and ask before you go and make a fool of yourself. If in doubt, go here to see the rules for appropriate attire.

4). Bedecked with jewelry. The bling bling detracts from your credibility. One ring per hand, and only on the ring finger, please. (Women: Your wedding set counts as one ring.) No big earrings. Guys - no earrings period. I'm also seeing a trend in women for toe rings and open-toed shoes. This sends the wrong message. No big necklaces, bracelets, etc. Dress and accessorize yourself with simple elegance.

5). Monopolizing the conversation. Don't blather on. Say your piece and shut your mouth. Don't speak too fast, either. And please speak up at a networking event (women, this means you, too!). If I can't hear you or understand you, I can't help you.

6). No business cards. A networker without a business card is like a politician without a lie. Get some simple business cards printed up giving your name and contact information. Don't clutter the card, but you might put one or two things to identify who you are on it. Leave the back blank (and make sure it's a light color). Almost everyone writes on the back of business cards to remind them about who you are.

7). Staying with one person too long. Get in. Get out. Move on. Many people are so uncomfortable networking that they'll glom on to one person or a small group. This is always a mistake, unless that one person is the CEO of a company you want to work for and that person is interviewing you for your next job. Otherwise, remember that your task at a networking event is to make connections.

8). Trying to get too much at the networking meeting. You can't build on trust you don't have. Smart people don't give out leads at the big networking events. You're there to meet and greet. There should be several people from each networking event that you want to have coffee with. After you've built up your trust at the coffee meeting is the time to ask for leads - not at the networking event.

9). Trying to tell too much. I'm sorry, but my eyes just glaze over at most people's "elevator speeches." Here's a tip. Your elevator speech should contain: a). Your name, SLOWLY and CLEARLY spoken. b). Your current or previous title. Don't say "I'm a senior (whatever) executive." What does that mean?. c). ONE major duty or accomplishment from your last position stated in very, very brief terms. d). What you're looking for. That's it. Make it 30 seconds of measured, understandable speech or less. Don't drone on.

10). Hitting on someone. If you're at a business event, keep it business (at least while you're there). If there is mutual attraction with someone, and you're both single, great. Take it outside of the networking event. Go out for drinks after, or something. But remember your purpose at a business networking event is to do business...not monkey business.

Networking is vital in the job search. But it can backfire if you aren't networking with skill and class, actually delaying employment for you. Also, please remember that whatever you do in networking is public, not private. (More on that here.) Good luck with your search.

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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