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As a professional career, job search and networking coach, I admit I have a high bar. I have an eagle eye for both great networking and poor networking habits. My reactions to poor networking styles range from laughing to crying to giving unsolicited feedback (which does not always go over so well). So, I am channeling my range of professional emotions into a format that I hope readers find helpful.
- Suggesting lunch.
- Being overly apologetic.
- Not having business cards.
- Barging right in.
- Dominating someone’s time.
- 6, Being casual, flippant, or unprepared.
- Being a taker.
Here are the last three of my networking faux pas and how to avoid them in the first place.
- Having Zero Listening Skills
I am a networking coach, and I am bold. So, when someone asks me for advice, then walks into the room empty-handed, I smile and say, “How are you going to remember what I say?” Inevitably, they point to their head and say, “I’ll remember everything.” So, I rattle off, “Call Jim at 123-555-4444, call for a job opportunity with Sally at 456-555-7890 and go to flexjobs.com.” Busted! Then I either hand them a pad of paper and pen or ask them to get a napkin and pen from the closest coffee barista.
There are four main reasons to have a pen and paper with you at all times:
- It shows respect. The other person was gracious enough to give you time and insights. Your respect and gratitude are easily demonstrated by writing down what they have to say.
- Ensure your pre-prepared questions are written down so you stay on track and monitor the time you asked for.
- You simply cannot retain all the information you hope to learn.
- You will want to refer to your notes when writing the thank-you note you will send within 12 hours.
- Choosing the Wrong Place
If someone asked you to pick a location for a serious meeting about your career, your challenges or important information you want to learn, would you pick a place with…
- Lots of noise, with people yelling names and drink sizes
- Nowhere to sit
- Tons of people around to bump your chair or listen in on your conversation
- Parking challenges
- Long lines to order and awkwardness about who pays?
- There are so many better choices; consider the following options.
- Offer to come to their office. This saves them the hassle of any travel and you get to see their office environment.
- Ask them where the most convenient spot to meet is for them. If they choose a loud coffee shop, go with it.
- If they are out of town, offer a web-based conversation with video cameras. Free services such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom are easy to use. It is time to master that technology anyway since that is where collaboration and interviews are headed.
- Scope out hotel lobbies or office building lobbies that may have a quiet sitting area.
- If you take a phone or video call from home, arrange to have kids and dogs taken care of so the call can go uninterrupted. While I love animals and kids, hearing them on a call is distracting and unprofessional.
- Missing A Few Other Big Things
Since there are many more than 10 networking bloopers, I will group a few important bad habits into one.
- Being Late. If you are the one who asked for help or a meeting, then it is unacceptable to be late. Apply the following principles:
- For a phone call, be ready 15 minutes early in a quiet place by the phone.
- For a face-to-face meeting, be at the location 30 minutes early.
- Do not book another meeting back-to-back before this meeting so you have plenty of travel time. Put that travel time in your calendar as a meeting with yourself.
- Withhold excuses like “traffic.” Simply say, “I’m sorry; I messed up.”
- Forgoing Basic Hygiene. You want to make a great first impression, yes? And second, third and fourth. So please be sure you are dressed well, breath is odor-free, hair is brushed, and you are clean!
- Having Technical Challenges with Web Calls. Whether you are invited to a web-based call or you set one up, you need to have audio and video set up at least 10 minutes prior. For those of you worried about ageism, being unable to use collaborative technology will be a red flag, particularly to those in younger generations who are on the other end of the line. With simple research, you can be prepared for any call, no matter which solution is used, from Microsoft Teams to Zoom to GoToMeeting.
- Disagreeing or Debating the Advice You’re Receiving. Be open and flexible. Remember that if you ask 10 different people, you will get 10 different perspectives. Simply listen, take notes, and withhold your challenges or desire to debate. It is OK to ask questions for clarification and to probe for more, but do not waste valuable time by contradicting the person you are speaking with.
- Repeating the Biggest Blooper of Them All: Zero Gratitude. You just can’t say thank you enough times. Period.
Most of us have been on both sides of the table, acting as the networker and being gracious as the networkee. I encourage you to take the time to apply the basic steps of courtesy, advanced planning, and gratitude. Everyone will benefit now that you know all the types of networking bloopers to avoid.
This article (part 3 of 3) originally appeared here on Forbes.com.