We tell business leaders all the time to get out there and start networking, but very few people know how to do it. While there is no one right way to introduce yourself, there is a whole list of things you should never do. A lot of these are commonly accepted in the business world, but some are unfortunately still pretty popular but can make certain individuals uncomfortable. Just because other business professionals do some of these doesn’t make it ok. Here are 4 things not to do when networking.
Bring Your Personal Self Into Your Business
One of the most important things to remember when you’re networking is that you’re representing your business, not just yourself (even when your business is yourself, you should know the difference.
Sometimes some personal information is required, and you want to present yourself as a real human being, but you also want to show that you are as professional as your business. You may laugh, share stories, and form bonds with your coworkers, but don’t mix in stuff like political rants, start preaching your beliefs, or publically obsessing over something in your personal life. Everything you do should keep in mind the goal to form a business connection.
Pry into Someone Else’s Personal Life
Whenever you meet someone new, it is your responsibility to learn their boundaries and respect them. Asking questions about someone’s life that has nothing to do with their business will very often cross that boundary.
A big reason why you should not present too much of your personal self is so that others feel comfortable focusing on their business. No one is there for reasons unrelated to their business, and they should have the right to their own privacy as a result.
If you ever find someone attractive at a networking event, and you’re thinking of pursuing them, then please take that thought, put it in the trash. That is entirely inappropriate for the setting.
Under no circumstances is it acceptable or appropriate to start flirting with someone at a networking event. As was stated earlier, their only goal is to promote their business, and that should be your only goal too. Not only is it inappropriate, but it also discourages more women from accessing the workplace and is, unfortunately, a normalized behavior among some men, meaning that it contributes to a work environment that pushes women away. And in most cases, these situations can lead to harassment.
Romantic pursuits are strictly in your own time, and should never happen during a business exchange.
Making Assumptions About Someone’s Job
Sometimes we recognize enough a pattern to guess who is what. We think we know what a Vice President looks like, or a secretary, or the valet. But then there are surprises…they’re never pleasant. Very often these mistakes are the result of internalized stereotypes. We don’t recognize them as such because they follow a pattern, but every so often we forget that the pattern is fading.
The best solution is to be in the habit of asking, and never assuming. Relying on a habit of making assumptions about other people will inevitably lead you to mistake a potential client for their secretary. And that will not end well.
What you do want to do is be kind. Always introduce yourself, your business and what you are doing. Inquire about their business and what they do there. Look for common ground and ask yourself how you can help them. Ideally, they would do the same for you. Keep it friendly and polite while focused. You will be appreciated for your professionalism, it respects their time with you, and everyone is getting closer to their business goals.