Networking is an important part of getting your dream job. You need to make sure that you’re coming across as both likable and professional without becoming “that” guy. We all know him: overdressed, overselling, and over-aggressive. No thanks. We’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts about how to master informal networking without putting anybody off.
Don’t be over-aggressive.
An informal networking meeting should be just that — informal. First of all, you don’t know if the person you’re meeting for coffee even has a job to offer. Take your time together as a way to get to know more about the person, and, if you’re informally meeting a potential employer, to chat about your interest in their company. You don’t need to brag about how awesome you are. Rather, let them intuit that by making a good impression. Simply being friendly and interested in what they have to say will go a long way.
What to do instead: Follow up.
After you’ve met a new contact, don’t wait for days or weeks to reach out to them. While their memory of you is still fresh, send them an email or give them a call thanking them for taking the time to meet with you. If they’ve done you a favor, do something nice for them in return like linking them up on social media with someone who you think can benefit them. Don’t let informal networking be one-sided. Pay your contacts back.
Don’t dress up or dress down.
What to wear to an informal networking event or meeting can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Unless you’re meeting at the Met gala or a baseball game, business casual is almost always the way to go for informal networking. If you dress up or dress down too much, you might make your interactions with others uncomfortable or embarrassing.
What to do instead: Read the situation.
Informal networking can be the place where you wear clothes that demonstrate your personality more than traditional job interviews. You want to make an impression, remember? So, feel free to wear brighter colors and accessories as your informal networking attire. Also, make sure that you pick outfits appropriate for the setting. For job fairs, dress formally. For a cocktail party, wear tasteful clothes that are formal enough for the setting.
Don’t work the hard sell.
In informal networking, it’s important to remember that you’re a person, not a used car. With that in mind, don’t try too hard to sell your contacts on your accomplishments. A contact is much more likely to pass your name on to employers — or to hire you herself — if you’re likable and engaging. Remember, nobody wants to work with somebody who spends all of their time humblebragging.
What do instead: Think about making a friend.
We can’t reiterate enough that informal networking is about reconnecting with old acquaintances and making new ones. A contact will want to help you succeed because she likes you, not because she thinks that you’ll be the next powerhouse at a company. Use your EQ and listen to your contacts. Think about ways that you can help them. Make real connections with people rather than simply using them to get ahead. Trust us, this works much better.
Get ready by chilling out a little. Remember, you might meet a new boss — or you might make a new friend. But you also want to prepare by having a networking resume ready for meetings with your contacts. It should be simple and one-page long. We’ve got a guide for what to include and what to leave off this document. And before you send off a resume for a job, don’t forget to make sure it matches the job description keywords by running it through our resume optimization feature. Don’t let all your hard networking go to waste by failing to connect keywords.