Networking 101: The Rules of Etiquette
Guest Post by Elenore Frost
Networking has the potential to span beyond just a conversation and is one of the most important ways for individuals to forge professional relations to either advance or help guide their careers. However, you cannot just jump into the conversation without knowing the proper etiquette. Networking rules and etiquette are of paramount importance for being able to properly navigate these interactions.
The handshake: When you are trying to establish a conversation with someone you are unfamiliar with, the handshake is important because it will be their very first impression of you. A general rule of thumb is to use your right hand and give a firm handshake, not one that will strangle their hand but one that shows you are confident and professional. If you’re worried about sweaty hands, don’t be afraid to give your hand a quick wipe on your pants before going in for the shake.
Eye contact: It goes without saying that people like to be heard when they are talking. So, it is important for the person you’re conversing with to understand their words are being heard. One can do this simply by maintaining eye contact and nodding in agreement. You should not constantly be scanning the room for someone more interesting to walk by - this is a sure way to not make a good impression. Little signs that you’re engaged in the conversation - like eye contact and body language - are key.
Responding to questions: There are some simple questions you should know the answer to before going to networking events: “What do you do?” and “Tell me about yourself?” Do not think of the answer to these questions on the spot because chances are if you have a breakdown of them in your mind prior, you will sound a lot more eloquent and clear. You do not want to tell the person you are networking with your life story, rather, you want to give them a brief minute run-down on the important and hopefully interesting things you do.
Ask your own questions: One of the best and often, the most forgotten tips of networking are the importance of asking your own questions. It can show the person you’re talking to that you are genuinely engaged and interested in the conversation and that you take your own career and future seriously. Some of the simplest and best questions to ask include: “What does a typical day look like in your field?”, “What is the culture of the company?”, and “What do you like and dislike about your job?”. Asking questions helps to show that you are paying attention to the conversation and are truly excited to learn more about a specific field.
Follow up & say thank you: Even after you are done with your networking event or have finished a conversation, networking etiquette still hasn’t ended. One of the most important things to do is to follow up with your connection; this can easily be done by a brief email thanking them for the information they shared as well as establishing your interest and willingness to get involved. This is the final step in making a good networking connection because it shows the individual that you are interested in and grateful for the opportunity to talk with them and most importantly, it displays proper networking etiquette.