At least he took a shot!

Before I try something new, if possible, I like to find someone who has done it before and ask them how to avoid the “first timer” mistakes. I figure if I can call on someone else’s experience, I’ve got a better chance of succeeding earlier than if I try to go it alone.

Networking, like so many other pursuits has its own set of first-timer mistakes. If you are new to the practice, watch out for these misconceptions and you’ll end up having an easier time of it. Today’s mistake? Unrealistic business card expectations.

When I first started networking, I would show up at the event — the Chamber networking lunch, for example. I would do the best I could, mixing and mingling with the other attendees. I would get so excited when, after chatting for a few minutes, someone would ask me for one of my business cards.

Of course, I would present them with my card (sometimes two!) and then I would return home with the glow of success all about me. Yes, sir, things were really about to take off! For the next several days, I would look forward with anticipation to their call.

Of course, no one ever (and I mean ever) called.

Unfortunately, truly great networkers are fairly few and far between. These are the folks who, when they ask for your card, actually will do something with it — and I don’t mean just putting it in the pile on their desk. Their actions align with their intent and they have a system to support it.

The rest of the folks who ask (about 99%) may or may not intend to call you. They may only ask to be polite or they may just want to give you one of their cards. Either way, handing them a card is a lot like throwing it away (what they will eventually do when they can no longer remember where they got it or who you are).

Instead of depending on the kindness of strangers, if you find someone with whom you would like to continue the conversation beyond the event, you ask for their card. Then — and here’s the mark of a true networker — you take the initiative to contact them in order to learn more about them and, ultimately, develop a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship.

Heck, even better, ask for their card and before you walk away from each other, schedule your next meeting. Then you don’t need to worry about contacting them later.

Remember that the most valuable card at the networking event is the one you get from someone else. Then it’s up to you to to turn that brief connection into something more.

Photo credit: stock.xchng user ilco