There are many common networking mistakes that occur with millennials, because of the difference in social interactions during the digital age. As milennials, many of us love technology. We have smart phones, wii's, PS4s, XBoxes, laptops and iPads. We have gotten so used to communicating through social media and texting, that many of us have forgotten basic social etiquette. This may not seem important on an ordinary day, but if you need to attend a networking event or your company holiday party, you may run into some trouble. If you are not used to striking up conversations, making small talk and simply interacting with others, you'll really feel uncomfortable throughout your career. (Let's be honest, sometimes our coworkers are just weird.) Just in case you need to refresh your memory on what not to do, here are some common mistakes that young professionals often make during networking events.
You sit with your friends.
We all do it: beg our friends to attend events with us so that we have a crutch to hold on to throughout the night. As fear begins to take over, suddenly we are convinced that we are too awkward to talk to others and decide to stick with the friends we have. If you sit with your friends, there's a strong possibility that you will cling to each other throughout the entire event with little to no interaction with anyone else. If you make the conscious decision to sit in an area where you don’t know anyone or simply just walk around the room, you will be forced to interact with others, start conversations and make new connections. If you have difficulty starting a conversation with a stranger, compliment them on what they are wearing, ask them how they heard about the event or simply introduce yourself. This shows that you’re confident, polite, and approachable. Before you know it, you will be deep in conversation about life, career and even goals with a stranger.
Your attire doesn't connect to your personal brand.
There are many women who don’t like to wear heels and some women who feel uncomfortable in flats. There are many men who HATE suits, but feel more comfortable wearing a dress shirt and a cardigan. As long as the event isn't formal, make sure you are comfortable and feel confident while remaining presentable and professional. One thing to keep in mind is what your attire conveys. What does your outfit say? Does it say I'm young and fresh? Seasoned and professional? Outgoing or reserved? Your personal style is a direct indication of your personal brand, because it is an external expression of internal traits. Scary right? You're probably thinking, "I just get dressed. I didn't know there was such a science to this!" Well, there kind of is. For example, if you are introverted and a bit shy, you might want to wear something that is a little "softer" like pastel colors or a dress. You might even want to wear a very "plain" outfit and dress it up a bit with a statement necklace or cool tie that will lead people to comment on it. Thus, they approach you. If you are conservative, your personal style should reflect a more classic look and feel, less reflective of the season's trends. It would be subconsciously confusing to wear a bright confident red or a power suit if it doesn't match your personality. People make assumptions, build expectations and make first impressions within the first few seconds of meeting you. The majority of it is non-verbal. Make sure that everything is consistent. What you wear and how you carry yourself has a lot to do with how you are perceived.
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Your swag is on zero.
I don't think swag and charisma can be taught, yet you can learn to turn on confidence in scenarios like this. If Beyonce has Sasha Fierce (or 'Yonce) and Steve Urkel had Stefan Urquelle, there is no reason for you not to call on your alter ego when you need a boost of confidence. Just remember that there is a difference between confidence and arrogance. You have something to offer others. Figure out what that is and sell it! Practice your elevator pitch, become familiar with some of the other attendees before the event, and engage on the social media hashtag. You will feel much more confident when you enter the room. Remember, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
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The business cards you collected are getting dusty.
The fortune is in the follow-up after a networking event. This cannot be emphasized enough! If you have made a contact during the networking event, make sure you follow up within 48 hours. We are all busy, but take some time to shoot them a quick note to thank them for their time, invite them to chat further, or connect on social media channels. You never know what those connections can blossom into. I have a few templates already created using Yesware, so that it is quick to reach out to those who I have met. People have a lot going on in their daily lives, so you need to make sure they remember you. And who knows? Maybe the person you connect with has some valuable information you can use to advance your career, become a future partner, hire you for a service or speaking engagement, or just become a friend. I have become great friends with professional peers I've met at networking events and made connections that have lasted beyond the night we met. Take five minutes to nurture a new connection. You never know what may come of it.