At formal networking events there’s usually a “needs and leads” session, where participants can mention companies in which they’re interested. They ask if their fellow networkers know anyone at those companies. That’s the needs part.
The leads part is when their fellow networkers shout out the names of people they know at said companies. Or they say that they’ll talk with the person, who has needs, at the end of the networking event. This brings me to the first missed opportunity.
Not asking for leads
At a recent networking event I was leading at our career center, I asked if anyone had any needs and leads. This was after our guest speaker had finished her presentation. No sooner had I made the announcement, many people rose from their chairs and headed for the door.
For those who remained, I told them this was their chance to ask for leads. A few of them mentioned companies in which they were interested. And a few of the attendees offered some leads.
This is a classic example of job seekers who don’t know the companies in which they’re interested. They haven’t done their research, haven’t created a list of 10 or 15 companies they’re targeting. Or maybe they’re afraid to ask for help. In either case, this is a missed opportunity.
Not approaching the guest speaker
I mentioned we had a guest speaker. If the guest speaker is someone who works for a company on your target list, you must wait around at the end of the event to grab a few minutes of their time. Let’s call this Company X.
Make your intentions clear that you’re very interested in Company X and the role you’re seeking. The speaker might not know if Company X has an opening or plans to hire someone for your position, but that’s okay.
Kindly ask if you can leave your resume or, better yet, personal business card with them for future consideration. Ask for their company business card, as well. And don’t forget to ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn.
If all of this seems too forward, keep in mind that people who attend networking events, participants or speakers, know the purpose of the event—to network. How you deliver the ask is important. You must come across as polite and sound as if you don’t expect anything.
Not approaching people with whom you should speak
Research the people who will be attending. If possible, find out if there will be contacts or potential contacts at the event. You might want to arrange to meet people of interest at the event. As well, you can inquire from the coordinator of the event who will be at the event. This is particularly a smart move for people who are uncomfortable going to networking events.
The events I lead at our career center always begin with people delivering their 30-second elevator pitch. This is the time when you write down each person’s occupation, so you can approach them near the end of the networking event.
Here are some other tips:
- Make sure you’re wearing a name tag for easy recognition.
- Approach the people with whom you want to speak in a friendly manner.
- Be prepared to provide information or leads for them.
- Be willing to deliver your ask…politely
Not including other networkers in a group conversation
I see this all the time. A group of networkers excluding others from their group. I find it incredibly rude and a possible missed opportunity. For example, at one of my networking events I see a group of people having a lively conversation. I know that one of them might be interested in a position we’re trying to fill at our career center.
I wait patiently. I try to make eye contact with one of them. Still waiting I get no love. I walk away and move on to an individual who is standing alone and appearing uncomfortable. She’s happy to see me, as I’m the facilitator of the event.
I’ve also seen this at larger events. A good group facilitator will walk with the person to a group of clueless networkers and introduce the hesitant person. The facilitator will break the wall and force the group to include said person. This should not have to happen.
Not bringing your personal business cards to the event
In my opinion, if you leave your personal business cards at home, don’t go to the event. It’s that simple.
Hopefully this article will encourage you to create a personal business card: 7 reasons why you need personal business cards and 7 facts to include on them.
Not dressing for success
It’s not necessary to dress to the nines when you go to a formal networking event, but you should at least wear casual work attire. I’ve seen people wear Tee-shirts and jeans to events. This might have been appropriate attire for where they worked, but it’s not appropriate for a formal event.
Not dressing for success shows a lack of professionalism and respect to other members of the networking group. I say this because I feel disrespected when I hold an event and people wear their Saturday home gear.
For the most part, I see networkers who dress very well. Some will appear in a suit, which is overkill, but others will wear nicely pressed shirts, blouses, slacks, or skirts. This says to me, “I know why I’m here, and I’m ready to get down to work.” They get it.
Keep in mind that a potential employer might be in the room, and they might have to hire an employee in the future. Who’s going to leave a positive impression in their mind; the people who’ve dressed to impress, or the ones who’ve shown up looking like they’re going to mow their lawn.
Of course, not following-up
Here’s where many people drop the ball; they don’t follow-up with the people with whom they’ve had a great conversation. The words of my friend and founder of a networking group, Kevin Willett, ring in my ears:
If you don’t follow up, it’s like you were never there.
So true. You must follow up the next day (Monday if it’s a Friday event) with a phone call or email. And you must persist for a couple or three times at most. If you don’t get a response, the message is clear; that person was never serious to begin with.
Here’s where you need to practice etiquette. If you reach said person, ask them if they would like to meet for coffee (your treat) or have a phone conversation at their convenience.
Here’s the thing; people like me would rather speak over the phone than take more time to meet for coffee. There are others, however, that like the face-to-face interaction. Tell them that you respect their time and will talk anywhere they’d like.
Missed opportunity at networking events can mean the difference between landing a job and not. Let’s recap on what you should do:
- Ask for leads
- Approach the guest speaker
- Approach people with whom you need to speak
- Include others in your group conversation
- Bring your personal business cards to events
- Dress for success
- Follow up
Photo: Flickr, International Railway Summit