Networking: Not just giving out business cards

No, I don't really want to give you my business card.

Not that I'd ever say that. I'll still pleasantly give it to you. And hope that this will be the one time you actually use it for something. But I won't hold out much hope.

I've been to more networking events than I can count. And I really enjoy them. Truly, I do. I love meeting new people and hearing about jobs I didn't even know existed. I love veggie platters and open bars and chatting about the city I live in with others who love it as much as I do. I enjoy the excitement of meeting someone I can help advance, and also people who could potentially help me.

But for all the business cards I have given out to people, I recall exactly one person reaching out to me as a result. I really don't mind. I know enough about people and this beast we call "networking" to understand. But I am increasingly discovering that many people don't take this seeming rejection as lightly as I do. Why didn't they follow up? What did I do wrong? Why isn't this the business connection I thought it would be?

A few reasons people aren't contacting you after receiving your card:

  1. Asking was a formality. That's right. At networking events, the exchange of business cards is nothing more than a handshake. It is a way of acknowledging another individual as a business owner. Often nothing more. You wouldn't expect every person you shook hands with daily to reach out for coffee, would you? 

  2. They were escaping politely. When someone asks for your business card in the future, consider the context. How long did you have that person in conversation? Were they interrupting a lengthy story or pitch? Did they end the conversation immediately after receiving it? The need to escape doesn't necessarily mean they didn't enjoy your conversation, but it does mean that they felt the need to move on and connect with others as well.

  3. You aren't the priority. You have no way of knowing where you "rank" in the to-do list of other individuals. While they may really want to connect with you at some point, other requirements and urgencies may take over and leave you at the bottom of the heap. It really isn't personal.

Instead of giving out business cards, try:

  1. Getting business cards. Every time someone else gives you their card, YOU gain the control. The ball is in your court. Rather than waiting for that email or phone call to come in, you can take the initiative and do the calling yourself. Put the ball in your own court as often as possible.

  2. Being a connector of others. Rather than becoming known as the person who is always selling your work, become known as the person who is constantly helping others to connect. Pay attention to the needs of everyone you connect with, and watch out for opportunities to connect your network with each other. This will build your network strength and people will constantly be reminded of your value to them (without you needing to say anything!).

#EmployeeEngagement #HR #networking #Millennials