13 Common Mistakes at Networking Events (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

With practice and preparation, anyone can become adept at "working a room"


While some are naturally more adept than others, anyone can learn how to use networking as a way to advance his career.  However, networking has to be done correctly for it to be fun and effective.  Here are 13 of the top mistakes people make when networking: 

  1. Lack of preparation: Have a few ice-breaker questions and ideas ready for every event, and be aware of the latest news/trends about the industry related to the organization hosting the event.  Lastly, if you know certain people will be at the event, have a few specific questions/ideas prepared just for them.
  2. Attending the wrong types of networking events.  While it’s never a waste of time to meet new people, you should be attending events that are primarily comprised of people you want to meet.  Many people think networking is pointless because they are going to events that don’t make sense for their goals!
  3. Having unrealistic expectations.  Don’t set your expectations too high or you’ll feel unnecessary pressure.  Just focus on meeting new people and sharing ideas, not on getting a sale or job!
  4. Only talking to people you already know.  While it is always beneficial to build on current relationships, many people cling to people they know because they are afraid to talk to “strangers.”  Aim to talk to at least 2 new people for every hour you are at an event.
  5.  Not having business cards OR having crappy business cards.  It looks unprofessional if you run out of them or if you forgot to bring them (note: I am guilty of both of these blunders!).  However, it’s even worse when someone gives me a business card that looks cheap.  Do you realize how inexpensive business cards are?!  On a side-note,  you don’t need business cards if you are a student, but if you get them, they better look really sharp. 
  6. Making a bad elevator pitch.  When asked what you do, it is essential that you have a prepared response that is concise, captivating, and clear.  (My current line is “I help students and recent grads get their dream jobs”).  In general, you need to have a statement you can say in about 5 seconds that does not leave people confused and that has people saying “wow, that’s interesting” or asking “wow, how do you that?”  More to come on this topic tomorrow. 
  7. Trying to sell something right away.  Nothing turns people off more at a networking event than someone trying to peddle a product or service.  Build a relationship first.
  8. Being too controversial.  Certain topics are always off-limits at networking events, i.e. sex, religion, and politics. Don’t talk about anything that could make people uncomfortable; just being at the event is already difficult enough for many!
  9. Barging in on intimate conversations.  In general, you should introduce yourself to people who are by themselves or people in groups of 3 or more; it can be challenging and rude to interrupt 2 people in a private discussion.   The exception would be if 2 people are standing side to side looking around the room, a sign that they are receptive to others coming over and saying hello.
  10. Talking too much about yourself.  The best way to build a relationship is to get others to talk about themselves and to share ideas or leads that can help them.  Refer to Monday’s post.
  11. Making a poor introduction.  It is essential that you smile when you meet someone, that you give a quality handshake (not too weak or too suffocating), and that you look them right in the eye when you shake hands. Fail to do these 3 things, and people will not trust you or respect you.
  12. Focusing on quantity instead of quality.  It’s not about seeing how many business cards you can collect; it’s about having meaningful conversations with people.
  13. Not following up correctly after the event.  The relationship begins at the event, but it gets built afterwards.  See yesterday’s post.

In general, people either under-prepare for networking events or they go into these gatherings with the wrong goals and expectations.  I’ve unfortunately made or seen all of these errors.  What about you? 

-Pete Leibman 

– Career Expert and President of Idealize Enterprises 




Explore posts in the same categories: Job Search Made Easy, Networking, Professional Relationships

One Comment on “13 Common Mistakes at Networking Events (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)”

  1. […] a new career at the start of the recession.  Because most young professionals make a number of mistakes when networking, many inaccurately view networking as intimidating, time-consuming, and […]

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