In order to conduct a proactive and effective career search, it is critical to practice good networking etiquette. Merriam-Webster defines etiquette as the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life. While that is a mouthful, the bottom line is this: Be polite.
Your actions are a direct reflection of who you are. They are your brand. Good manners establish a positive impression in the minds of others. Perception IS reality. Poor etiquette can and will reflect negatively upon your image. There are a few things to avoid when it comes to networking.
- When networking in person or via telephone, don’t talk with your mouth full. Seems pretty simple right? You would be surprised.
- Cutting someone off when they are in the middle of speaking is not only annoying, but also extremely rude. Wait your turn before speaking.
- One of the worst things you can do during a networking conversation is to check text messages or emails. Similarly, answering calls unless they are absolutely urgent is a big faux pas. It is better to shut your ringer off or put your phone on vibrate. If you do have to take a priority call, be sure to say excuse me before you answer and step away from the area.
When it comes to netiquette (etiquette on the internet), here are some additional things to remember:
- Do not enter into a discussion or thread with the sole intention of promoting yourself without providing valuable information or content. Posting highly argumentative or offensive comments on social networking sites will only serve to alienate you. Be careful of offending others with extreme comments. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
- If you are trying to get a job, don’t send your résumé to every recruiter and career expert on the face of the earth as spam mail addressed to an undisclosed recipient list.
- Whether online or off, it is poor etiquette to bad mouth former employers. Even if your ex boss was a total idiot, when you say derogatory things about him, it only reflects negatively on you.
This list could go on, but you get the point. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Now you know what NOT to do, how about positive networking etiquette? What things can you do that will help get your name out there without ruffling feathers or tarnishing relationships?
- The first key to good networking etiquette is to be mindful of other people’s time. Recognize that you are asking for a favor and be respectful of those who have the potential to help you. Their time is valuable to them, so it is critical that your communications are brief and to the point. Always remember to say please and thank you. Also consider that you might be able to help someone out in return.
- Be specific when asking for leads to expand your network. For example, “I was wondering if you, or anyone you know, would be able to help me identify hiring managers in the IT telecommunications space. I appreciate your help.” If you are vague or simply ask someone if they are hiring, you will not get the same reaction as you will by being clear about what you desire.
- If you receive a lead from someone send them a thank you note. It will serve as a reminder that you are out there looking. Even if the lead doesn’t amount to anything, letting them know you appreciate their help will keep you in their thoughts in case something else comes up.
- Bring business cards to traditional networking events. Do not give these out randomly. If you give a business card to someone and receive one in return, make sure you indicate when you might follow up – and then do it.
- If you promise to provide someone with information about an upcoming event or agree to some other favor, be sure to get back to them. Networking is a two way street. You have to give to get.
Establishing your reputation as a trusted resource will enable you to grow your network. Over 80% of jobs in today’s market are unadvertised. This means that networking is critical to job search success. By sharpening your networking etiquette both on- and off-line, you will help advance your career and establish a brand that is both recognized and respected.