Networking is basically dating without the nice underwear. Many of us will go through our whole lives making the same, silly mistakes and then desperately whingeing to our friends when things don’t work out. So, stop stressing, take our advice and fix your mojo…
Getting too drunk
We cannot possibly over emphasise this one. If you are at an “event” and you are trying to make “a good impression” then don’t get “shitfaced”.
Of course, the whole drinking: networking ratio is made trickier to navigate than the M6 on a hangover by that natty little devil we call free bars. From private views to press nights, Christmas parties to campaign launches, free bars pop up at events like a hot cousin at a wedding: certainly welcome, but potentially disastrous.
While alcohol can certainly oil the wheels of conversation, especially with strangers, no one is going to look back fondly on the person who puked on their shoes in the foyer or slurringly mispronounced their own name. So, stagger your drinks: one soft drink for every alcoholic one. Finish your glass before getting another, as endless top ups make it nigh-on impossible to keep of track of how much you’re drinking. And finally, if you start to get that first whooshing, slidey inkling that you may have had one too many, make your excuses and leave. Quickly.
Not having business cards
Listen, I know, OK. I know. Business cards are super wack and embarrassing. They reek of those horrid egg-shaped vases in suburban pubs and charity prize draws but, seriously, they’re essential.
You can’t tell an artistic director to look you up on Facebook and it’s pretty lame to scrawl your Gmail address on the back of an old train ticket and hand it to a steely-jawed editor. So, get yourself on Moo.com, print yourself some business cards and for the love of pence, take them out with you. Don’t push them at everyone you meet – this isn’t poker – but if you’ve been chatting to someone for a couple of minutes and they ask you what you do or how they can get in touch, then give them a card.
Trying to connect with too many people
This is a networking event, not Pokémon: you haven’t got to try and catch them all. Have one or two top targeted people you want to talk to and then simply see what happens.
If you’re talking to someone, really try to listen to them properly – this isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you can, draw out the things that interest them and see if it chimes with the things that interest you. If you don’t feel that spark, don’t push it – simply move on to someone else.
If you do find someone that you get on with or feel a connection to, then enjoy talking to them and don’t try to engineer too much in one go. Don’t try to do business – this is neither the time nor the place. Instead, follow up all the connections you make and set up a meeting after the event.
Forgetting people’s names
Forgetting someone’s name is a brilliant way to sour a new friendship. A PR woman from a leading retailer called me Melanie for about a year and, though I hate to admit it, it made me like her a lot less.
Apparently the trick is to repeat their name back at them, as you shake their hand. That, or everyone puts their name on a rizla and sticks it to their face – it’s up to you.
Being so self-deprecating you come across as a bumbling idiot
Networking is one of the few times when it is better to sound serious and successful than charming and hopeless. Instead of saying “Oh well, I just graduated and I don’t really know what I want to do yet,” or, “I’m finding it really hard to get work,” just say what you do in the clearest, most positive way possible. For example, “I'm a photographer.” Or “I’m working on a couple of personal projects.”
If you already have a job, make sure you can explain what that job is in the most succinct, interesting way possible.
Finally, and at the risk of sounding like Oprah Winfrey, be yourself. Don’t be afraid to act yourself and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. If you’re interesting, and in the right place, people will want to meet and talk to you.
Five common writing mistakes
How to network
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Early One Morning by amirjina via Flickr under a (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license.