Professionals network for various reasons including a career growth opportunities, learning more about the industry craft, meeting other individuals or providing ongoing value to others.
Whether in the form of a Meetup group, cocktail party or a one-on-one coffee meeting, not all networking experiences go well.
While a bad experience can take on many forms, one of the most common scenarios involves a selfish person. This individual talks the entire time, never listens to your input and just wants to provide you with his or her life story.
Sometimes there’s no way to avoid these circumstances. When this is the case, try to find some value to take away.
Here are a few tips on salvaging a bad networking experience.
Related: 8 Ways to Optimize Your Network
Approach every networking opportunity as a buyer. To better prepare yourself for any networking opportunity approach the situation as a buyer and not someone who’s trying to sell something. This strategy will better equip you to deal with any type of person – even if they don’t approach the experience appropriately.
Martin Shervington, a marketing consultant, coach and Google+ expert, suggests that as a buyer in a networking situation we “buy” information by asking questions and being curious.
“At best, I think this approach allows an open mind to the 'opportunities in the room' and all the people to whom they are connected, instead of trying to get a sale,” says Shervington. “It is all about relationships and you never know where the connections will lead.”
Have an exit plan. Try to limit each meeting between 30 and 60 minutes.
When coordinating meeting details like the location, date and time, also include the length of the meeting.
By setting time expectations -- especially the very first time you’re meeting a person -– you can protect yourself from having too much of your time wasted if the other networker isn’t exactly what you had anticipated.
This gives you a window of time to provide some value, listen to their story and determine if this is the type of person you’d like to associate yourself with in the future.
If the networking is going better than expected and is of value, then you’ve got the option of spending more time together then you had originally set aside.
Treat it like a game. As you’re meeting with another professional, it won’t take long before you figure out if a person doesn’t align with your outlook. This can happen, but it doesn’t mean that the meeting should be a wash.
“When you're stuck in a networking situation with a self-involved person, don't try to force your way into the conversation,” said Dorie Clark, marketing strategist and author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future. “Just accept that you're going to hear a monologue, and try to make the best of it. There's usually something interesting about every person, whether it's the semester they spent in France or the time they met Richard Branson”
Clark recommends treating a less than ideal networking conversation like a game. Try to figure out what you can ask that will help you discover the most interesting nugget of information. By doing so, you are not only entertained but you are also able to determine how you can add value.
Provide value Figure out what you can provide to someone as a strong takeaway to help ensure something productive arises from the meeting. (Not to mention, you will also leave them with a good impression.)
Think about offering the person advice about her career path, promise a worthwhile introduction or offer some other form of value based off the information she provided in the meeting.
By focusing on what you can do for the other person when networking, you’ll help bring long-term benefits to your career and make the most of a less than enjoyable interaction.
Related: Power Networking in 3 Steps