Tag Archives: networking etiquette

4 ways networking is a waste of time: 6 ways networking works

Networking a waste of time? Coming from someone who co-facilitates a networking group and runs a job club at a career center, this statement seems like a contradiction. I believe in the power of networking, but how it’s done makes all the difference.

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At times networking for job seekers is painfully unsuccessful. Maybe you’ve experienced a time like this: You enter a large room in a church or library or anywhere that will host the networking group. You don’t know a soul if it’s your first go around.

You are shy in social situations. Introducing yourself and launching into small talk scares the hell out of you. Everyone else is engaged in conversation, save for a few people standing in the corners of this room which seems to be growing in size.

You’re remembering everything you’ve been told in job-search workshops. Have your elevator speech prepared is what you’ve been told. Deliver it naturally. Ask for and give your personal business card to anyone who will take and give theirs.

Networking doesn’t work for the following reasons

The scenario described above is one that is common to many job seekers. It’s reason enough for job seekers to swear to never network again. Here are reasons why networking can be a waste of time.

1. You expect immediate gratification

At one point you were told that fellow networkers are going to help you land your next job, which can be true. But if you expect them to have a pocketful of valuable connections with whom you can speak, or opportunities at the ready; you’re in for a disappointed time. Networking is a process that is invaluable, but it takes more time than one visit.

2. You’re not prepared for a formal networking setting

Remember the scenario I painted above? For many people, a large room full of people is not an ideal setting for networking. Generally speaking extraverts are more comfortable in larger groups than introverts, but this isn’t always the case. Extraverts may be as uncomfortable as introverts. The message here is be prepared.

3. You left your personal business cards at home

Worse yet, you don’t have personal business cards. Personal business cards are necessary for a formal networking event. At least 95% of the attendees will have their own personal business cards, which are ideal marketing literature that are meant specifically for networking events. Read my popular post to learn more about personal business cards.

4. You’re only there for the show

Do you go to a networking event to see the guest speaker and then leave? If this is the case, you have no intention to communicate with others. This is acceptable for one event, but if this is your MO, you’re taking up a seat. Read below to learn about what works.

What works

What works is communicating with people who have the same goal in mind, landing a job. Isn’t that what one does when they network, you wonder? Not necessarily. Some people don’t get the concept. Communicating should consist of an exchange of words from which both parties can benefit.

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1. Go to networking events with the goal of conversation in mind

I feel most comfortable at a business networking event if there are no expectations of immediate gratification. For example, I could have multiple conversations with a person until we know each other well enough to help each other. I don’t feel comfortable talking with someone who thinks talking at people is communicating. Do you see the difference? If you find yourself in a one-way conversation, disengage with said person.

2. Go with the mindset that you’re going to help each other

You’ve heard, “Help others before asking for help.” I personally think this attitude is a good one to adopt. Don’t go to a networking event only expecting help. However, have conversations with people who can be of mutual assistance. In other words, if you get the sense that the people with whom you’re talking only want help and have no interest in giving it, dump them like a hot potato.

3. Meet in smaller groups

Until now I’ve been painting a picture of large networking events. This type of setting may not be for you. Smaller networking groups may be the secret sauce for you. In smaller groups, you have a better chance of talking with more people and understanding their needs and how you can be of mutual assistance to each other. Read my article on the pros and cons of buddy groups.

4. You’ve got nothing to prove

You don’t have to leave a networking event with 10 personal business cards. You don’t have to leave a networking group with three business cards. In fact, if you leave a networking group without making connections, that’s all right. Just keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Failure is thinking that going to only one event was a waste of time.

5. Success happens anywhere

Superficial networkers are the people you meet when you’re out and about. They are the people in your community—your neighbors, friends, relatives, convenience store owners, hair stylist, dentist, soccer mom at a game, etc. These are people who may have heard of an opportunity. However, they can’t be of assistance unless you let them know you’re out of work. One suggestion is to always carry your personal business cards wherever you go.

6. Create your own networking events

I often suggest books for my clients to read. One of them is Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. One of the ideas behind this book is to create your own networking opportunities. Invite anyone you want to a hiking outing or dinner party (for instance) and…network. They can be job seekers or business contacts. It’s a great idea.


Networking can work as long as you avoid the four don’ts of networking and, instead, focus on the six dos. The suggestion I emphasize the most is not to give up on networking after one or two attempts. If you’re unsure of what to do, shadow another job seeker to learn best practices.

10 ways to make a better impression while networking

I was invited by one of my customers to attend a local networking event. Intrigued by what this networking group was all about, I agreed to take some time from the office and visit the group.

Networking_Group2They say timing is everything. Nothing illustrated this more than when I entered a hall-full room of networkers, and a man met me at the door and pounced on me before I was able to take off my coat.

“You’re Bob, right?” he said. I nodded, wondering how he knew who I was. I guess my customer told people I’d be going to the event.

“I’m Jim. I heard you’re pretty good at LinkedIn. I was wondering if you could help me with my profile. I’m not getting many hits. I’ve been on LinkedIn for more than a year. Do you think you could help me write it?”

“I lead LinkedIn workshops at the Career Center of Lowell,” I told him. “You should come to the Center and attend my workshops. Then I can critique your profile.” I hoped this was the end of our conversation, as I hadn’t even grabbed a coffee, but no the man continued.

“Well, I don’t really have time to go to the career center (probably because it would disrupt his online job search). And I’m not sure it will serve my needs, being an urban career center.”

I felt like telling him that people exactly like him come to our career center. Instead I told him I’d forgotten my business cards (lie) but he could call our local number if he wanted to come in for my workshops. I knew he wouldn’t make the call.

This, folks, is what gives organized networking a bad name. Going to a networking event should not start on an unpleasant note from point of contact.To make networking a pleasant experience for others, practice the following:

  1. Approach potential connections slowly, yet confidently. Don’t spring upon a person like the fellow I mentioned above. I didn’t appreciate being bombarded before I was able to get settled. Instead casually approach the person with whom you’d like to meet and give a nod of recognition.
  2. Make eye-contact and smile before approaching. People can tell a lot about you from your causal eye-contact. Your eye contact says you’re approachable. And smiling shows warmth and acceptance. Those who don’t smile seem indifferent, which doesn’t encourage conversation.
  3. Extend your hand in a non-aggressive manner. This is a sign of welcome, and to me says you have solid character. That said, shake a person’s hand gracefully and don’t squeeze so hard that it hurts. No limp or wet-palm handshakes either–as my daughter would say, “Ewww.”
  4. Think small talk first. There’s no reason to immediately launch into your elevator speech. Ease into the conversation by using the methods listed above and wait for the right moment to explain what you do and talk about the value you bring to employers.
  5. Give the person your undivided attention. Later in the morning I was talking with someone who kept looking past me like she was expecting Prince Charming to come through the door. I realize I’m not Brad Pitt, but come on. If it ain’t happening, make an exit gracefully.
  6. Don’t offer your personal business card if you don’t mean business. It’s disingenuous and a waste of paper when you give your card to someone with whom you have nothing in common or feel no connection. I distrust people who give me their card as soon as we start talking. Don’t you want to know my name first?
  7. Understand cues that tell you your networking companion has had enough. Despite what you may think, not everyone is interested in hearing you talk excessively about your services, products, or unemployment woes. Watch for rolling eyes, shifting feet; hear when people say, “Mmm,” or “Yep” or “Right.” These are cues to move on.
  8. Have a polite exit plan. There will be times when you’ll be cornered by a talker who’s goal is to tell you about every aspect of his life. Politely disengage politely. Something like this might be effective: “It’s been great talking with you, but I’m here to meet with someone about her job search. It will help to have a safe zone, a person to retreat to.
  9. Catch the person on your way out. Do you ever leave a party without saying goodbye to the host? Of course not; that’s just plain rude. Make sure you afford your potential contacts the courtesy of letting them know you’re leaving. Otherwise, they’ll get that feeling of being blown off or continue to look for you during the rest of the event.
  10. Follow up. This goes without saying. Tell those with whom you have something in common that you’ll follow up your conversation the next day…and do it. When you follow up with your new connections, you show responsibility and respect. Further, you solidify the relationships.

On my way back to the office I stopped by the neighborhood Panera Bread, where I ran into one of my customer who’s trying to find a job. The meeting was easy and refreshing and reminded me of what networking is all about—great conversation with the subtlety of networking in the background, yet ever-present. The timing was just right.