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Networking Etiquette

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Q: I have recently accepted a new position and wonder how I should let people know, what I should say, etc. Thank you for your columns.

A: I am going to expand on this subject a bit and talk about etiquette in general.

It is common courtesy, and even probably official protocol, to let people know that you have accepted a new position, especially if they have been of some assistance in the process. People appreciate a thank you and are encouraged to find that you have had success. They feel their efforts have been worth it. I think it is also important to do the same thing with a networking group that you primarily been in contact with online. Definitely tell them the company (with a little description of the company if it is not an easily recognized name), your position, a summary of responsibilities, and provide contact information. I am not big on direct solicitation of business in this context, but I think something like, ''If I can be of any assistance in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me'' is a great way to end.

Handwritten thank you cards are nice and a break in routine for the receiver. But they are not practical to send to everyone you have been in contact with. I think a nicely worded email (with all recipients bcc'ed) is totally acceptable. There are probably also some individuals who should get a special thank you. Besides the email, send them a thank you card as well.

Do not use online networking groups as your own personal free promotional ad space. This is an abuse of your membership and in opposition to their purpose. If you are still looking at this from a selfish perspective, you should realize that using such networks for ad space will hurt you more than it will help you.

When attending live networking functions, understand the function and the expectations placed on attendees. There are some organizations like BNI, PRE, etc. that are built to be a lead exchange organizations. There are others that are strictly for networking and about getting to know new people and expand your personal network.

Leave your sales kit at home. Remember, that it is better to give than to receive, and keep in mind the universal law of reciprocity. How many of you have been cornered by a network marketer (no slur intended) or a salesperson from a certain profession or other who in five minutes can provide an amazing amount of product and service information without breathing? Don't be one of those people. If you are one of those that are offended by what I'm saying here, great. Maybe you will change your style.

If you have the opportunity to give a 30-second or one-minute elevator speech, don't try to jam War and Peace into it. You will run out of time. Also, be creative. Instead of telling what your business is and what you do, give them a personal story from your business. Example: ''I am a career coach, and recently I had the opportunity to assist someone with some personal challenges as well as with their job search. That's what I do.''

Using an attendee contact list or the email list of an online networking group to blast promotions out to is also bad manners, as well as a breach of trust. Not only will this sort of activity often get you banned from the group or meetings, but in many cases it also qualifies as spam.

Don't use networking groups, whether online or in-person, as a vehicle to pass on your views about politics, religion, etc. After all, you don't have to have an opinion on everything.

And here's second reminder (which means it must be important): Always be looking for ways to help the other person. This means changing your mindset from being a receiver to being a provider, from being a sales person to being to being a provider of information.

Always follow up with a handwritten or emailed thank you to people who have been of assistance in any way. Also, if you have met them and had a nice conversation, a brief ''It was nice to meet you'' note is a great way to get them to think of you. And, if you can provide them with names, information, etc. that would help them, do so.

Don't judge the value of any type of networking organization on whether you get a ''closable'' sales or job lead out of the first visit. Doing so would be all about you and your own self-centeredness, and might cause you may to miss a great long-term opportunity.

In closing, networking is an art and a science. It is not a sales pitch.

Here's Wishing You Terrific Hunting and Networking,


About the Author

Bill Gaffney has 17 years of experience as an executive recruiter and career coach. Bill can be reached at 937-567-5267 or For questions to be considered for this column or topic suggestions, please email
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