December 20, 2017: Networking – Not a Gift Exchange of Business Cards!

2016-2017 Issue 1

Happy Holiday Season to everyone! How are you feeling about the networking opportunities that abound this time of year? Whether you are looking forward to the food, the cheer, the food, the catching up – or the food, the spirit in such get-togethers offers a promising opportunity to leave your mark. So let’s indulge in some tips for masterful networking:

3 Networking Do’s

1. Keep it light. From the icebreaker to the core of the chat, stick to pleasant, light and positive topics. You want the person to reminisce about your exchanges with a smile, so avoid tense, taboo, or highly personal themes.
2. Listen. Make sure you spend more time listening than you do talking. Show interest in the other person, they will immensely appreciate it. And in fact, when nervous or in doubt, ask a follow-up question. The more you focus on others, the better impression you will leave.
3. Position yourself as a professional offering value, not a job seeker asking for a favour. No one hires anyone to do them a favour. As a candidate that may fill an existing need, you represent an investment, not a cost. So focus on the value you bring and strive to maintain an equal-level playing field as you touch upon your respective occupations and career goals.

3 Networking Don’ts

1. Don’t treat people like they are their jobs. In networking situations, contrary to job fairs for instance, professionals are not just representing their employers. They are not walking business cards, nor are they job boards for opportunities in their companies! Show interest in them as individuals, not just what they do.
2. Don’t forget that your body talks. Smile, maintain eye contact, stand or sit upright, and offer a firm handshake. Better yet, lean in a bit as you shake someone’s hand, it makes for a warmer gesture!
3. Don’t ask for a job or a referral when you have just met. In fact, rather than asking for something, offer instead. The right mindset for networking is a giving one. Listen for things you can help with, like an article, an upcoming conference or workshop, a restaurant you can recommend, a person to whom you can refer them, or the effort to spread the word about their products and services. Your kindness and willingness to help out – even if it doesn’t lead to immediate or concrete outputs for them – will definitely leave an imprint in their minds, and they will want to help you in turn.

Networking is about trust, and building trust requires time. It is not a series of transactions or gift exchanges of business cards. So remember to treat professionals like individuals, and reach out to support them in their professional and other pursuits. You will be surprised at just how much you attract what you project.

Healthy, delicious, laughter-filled holidays to you all!

Connect with Maia and McGill’s School of Continuing Studies on LinkedIn.

Read this article as originally published in French in 24heures Montreal.

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