If you’re just starting out in a new field or job, it can be intimidating understanding how to network. Networking is a process of building connections with people that can lead to opportunities in your professional (and personal) growth.
You want these connections to be meaningful and authentic, but that can be difficult, especially upon meeting new people. In this article, we will discuss some tips to networking etiquette for beginners, including what to do and how to be as polite as possible when networking.
Making eye contact is something many of us struggle with. The reasons for the struggle aren’t quite clear, but there tends to be a fear of wanting to seem too intimate with someone you don’t know well.
Making eye contact is difficult, and understanding the balance is as well.
It’s important to practice this skill repeatedly. Understand that everyone, upon meeting a new person, has some semblance of nervousness. Working through that and making eye contact is a key to success that you just have to embrace.
When to Send Social Media Invites.
Social media is a huge part of our lives, and knowing when to send a social media invite like a LinkedIn or Facebook request can be stressful. However, social media forms a huge part of networking too, so you need to learn how to use it effectively.
Send the invite on a professional networking site such as LinkedIn first, and wait to send them a social media (Facebook) request until you’ve gotten to know one another better. Facebook is a more personal site than LinkedIn; there are pictures of family members and friends. You want to build up more of a connection before you friend them there.
Stand When Introduced.
If you’re being introduced and happen to be seated and the other person to whom you’re being introduced standing, make sure you stand as well. This shows respectfulness and interest in the person.
Also, it’s much less awkward to shake someone’s hand when you’re standing level with them as opposed to reaching upwards from a seated position.
Speaking of handshakes, keep it firm and brief. You know the old belief that you can tell a lot about a person through their handshake. You don’t want to offer a limp handshake because that will make you look insincere, if not rude. You also don’t want to shake someone’s hand too vigorously or too long, as it will make you seem too aggressive and domineering.
While this may seem oddly specific, it’s not that difficult. Just do what you think is appropriate—99% of the time, your instinct on what’s normal or not is accurate.
Don’t Look at your Phone.
In such a high-tech society, we are always looking at our phones. Sometimes, this behavior can be to mitigate an awkward situation (for example, if we’re sitting by ourselves and don’t know who to talk to, being on your phone can make you seem busy).
However, when meeting someone in person, the last thing you want to do is text. It suggests you’re not interested in the conversation, and don’t value the other person. To put in perspective, imagine meeting someone, starting a conversation, and then halfway they break off suddenly to talk to someone completely different, ignoring you. How insulted would you be?
Only use your phone if you are putting in their contact information or showing them something specific you want to see. If you must use your phone for any other reason — such as sending a relevant message to a third party — say what you’re doing and excuse yourself.
Many people talk quickly when they’re nervous, and that fast-talking leads to interrupting. It’s not rudeness, usually, so much as it is nervousness.
If you’re someone with the tendency to babble or interrupt, make sure that you’re paying attention to it and remaining conscious of it. The only way to avoid this behavior is to watch yourself as you speak in order to ensure that you’re not doing it. Listen to the other person actively, waiting for them to clearly finish what you are saying before you say it. Try to consciously speak slowly too. Ideally, you should sound a bit too slow to yourself — that’s often just the right speed.
Be an active listener as well — nod and engage with the person as they’re speaking so they know you are not just hearing them but listening as well.
Follow Up Within Two Days.
The follow-up rule is an important one. For some people, networking is a way to get someone’s number and keep it moving. You want to make sure that you’re still remaining present in their mind. Send a “It was great to meet you!” email or a “Had a nice time talking with you!” message to the person you met so they know you’re not just being an opportunist. If you’re the kind of person that easily loses touch with new connections, try an address book app like Covve that’s able to schedule reminders and warn you if a connection you recently made is about to get cold.
Networking is an extremely important skill that you need to know in order to be successful in your professional life. Use these tips to help you master the art of networking.