Five Ways to Network...the Wrong Way

Author Devora Zack is the anti-networking networker. She knows that the traditional ways of networking present real challenges to those who are introverts or otherwise networking-averse and so has focused her attention on effective connecting techniques that work for those of us who break out in a sweat whenever we put on a name badge.

Truth be told, the traditional techniques aren't all that great to begin with. Devora outlines below five mainstream networking approaches -- and why they're wholly ineffective:

Approach 1: Meet as many people as possible at a particular event or gathering. Yeah, it sounds great until you realize that this is the real-world equivalent of spamming where you try and force yourself into everyone's inbox without knowing anything about them, who they are, and what they do. Yes, you are casting a wide net because you never know, but you fail to make an impression on any single person because you're too busy covering the room.

Approach 2: Get as many business cards in others' hands as possible. Have you ever gone home after a networking event of some kind with a pocket full of business cards? As you flip through them, do you notice that you've already forgotten who some of these people are or what they even look like? That's exactly what someone is thinking at the same time as they look at your mashed-up, sweaty business card, just seconds before it goes on their email list for their newsletter about advanced government auditing procedures (no offense to government auditors).

Approach 3: Attend even a cattle-call career-networking event -- opportunity is opportunity. Sure, the event description states "Employers from major companies will be in attendance -- everyone welcome!" What this usually means is that there'll be one or two lower-level reps who'll be pretty exhausted from repeating their company's focus on diversity/environment/ethics/creativity/etc. to the two hundred or so people that show up for each employer, resumes in hand. These reps also end up handing the resumes over to someone else who makes the initial HR decisions. This doesn't mean that such conferences are a total bust, but it does mean you should do your homework to get details ahead of time.

Approach 4: Never eat alone. There's nothing quite as charming as sitting with someone who chomps loudly and has bits of food hanging off the corners of his or her mouth -- and at one time or another, you were that person. Even otherwise, many people feel uncomfortable eating with others (remember the rule about no pasta on the first date?) or don't want to time their chews so that they can also talk without spraying the chicken kiev. Eat alone if that's what makes you comfortable, and order the ribs with extra hot sauce.

Approach 5: Have a drink or two to "take the edge off." The whole idea of meeting with others in a professional capacity tends to make a lot of people nervous and uncomfortable, so they figure they'll have a drink or two to loosen up. In most cases this is fine, but when you're nervous, your self-discipline can be compromised. Also, you probably haven't eaten that much which means you'll metabolize the alcohol in a more potent way. There's a fine line between just settling your nerves and stepping into realm of even mild intoxication -- too many people don't know when they've crossed that line, but others do, and it's not a good thing.


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