Networking isn't brain surgery. You prepare through research, bring necessary supplies like your resume, and then when the moment comes, act professional and excited when meeting new people. But there are a few things you should not do in the midst of networking. We asked career expert Alexine Garcia, an executive and federal resume writer, about the specific things that are total no-no's when it comes to networking. Below is what she said.
Don't complain about previous employers or bosses
Even if it's easy to rail about your last job because it was objectively bad and leadership let you down, it's not a good idea to focus any of the short and valuable networking time on a negative experience. It's a waste.
"And it's immature. It speaks badly of you and you can fall into it because there are plenty of companies and bosses out there with bad reputations. Don't bash anyone," Garcia told us.
Don't focus on your failures
Unless it's a really good and short story about what you learned from previous failure, it's not smart to obsess about negative aspects of your career journey during any part of a networking session. You never know how your sparring partner might interpret this information. What you see as a story of triumph and honor might be interpreted differently through the prism of the job selection process.
"Go at networking with a good attitude and be positive and don't fall into negative aspects," Garcia says.
Don't sound like a salesperson when giving your elevator pitch
Knowing how to frame your work experience within a larger narrative of how you can help a company succeed and do it in a short and sweet way — the elevator pitch — is important. But sounding authentic is also key. You don't want to come off like an emotionless automaton or like a salesperson trying to get a score. But Garcia does say you have to think like a salesperson sometimes — a smart one.
"You want to stop and consider: What am I selling? What do I have to offer? What gets people to buy what I'm selling? What problem am I solving for people? Are you faster than others? What value do you give to the workplace? Really stop and think. I've contributed over 30 percent to the bottom line … just be careful not to use your elevator pitch on every person you come across. Wait until it's your turn to talk," Garcia says.
Don't say you only looked at and applied to jobs through online portals
Only applying to jobs online and not actively networking face-to-face (even if only through streaming video) is a thing of the past and reeks of laziness, Garcia says.
"It's like shooting yourself in the foot. In the early years, maybe 2009 when jobs were moving online, instead of turning in an application in person, it worked to splatter the internet with your resume, especially a well-written one. But that doesn't work anymore," she told us.
Employers now want to see you've done the work of researching your options and that you know what you want, who you want to work for and all the specific reasons why. And they want you to pursue those opportunities fervently including a face-to-face networking session.
Don't focus too much on yourself
Potential employers, hiring officials and recruiters want to know the level of value you're going to bring, Garcia says. So in a meeting, you need to argue sincerely and specifically how you will improve the company. But you can't focus solely on yourself. Therefore, you also have to verbalize how your skills will fit the needs of the company.
Don't be too rigid about what you can and cannot do
The current and post-COVID-19 era will force people to take on jobs they hadn't previously considered doing before. So when it comes to networking, Garcia says you should definitely avoid being too rigid about your task expectations.
"Never say, well, 'I don't do copywriting,' or 'I don't ever do grant writing,' Never in networking mention things you don't do because in all honesty, especially in the market we're facing right now, we're all being asked to be flexible. To adapt to situations. So you do want to talk about being adaptable, giving examples of how you have overcome changes or adversity. That's just what's required of anyone in the work field right now."