How to Network Without Being Annoying

Make the most of your connections with these 10 dos and don'ts

Talk to people in advertising and media about how they landed their jobs, and you'll notice a trend: It often comes down to networking. In a competitive field, even the most tenuous connection can give someone the validation to hire you.

But when cultivating professional relationships, how do you walk the line between being persistent and being flat-out annoying?

We spoke with several industry pros about how to make killer connections, from working the Twittersphere like a cocktail party to following up in a way that feels genuine. Here are their 10 biggest dos and don'ts:

Do join professional organizations

When you're new to an industry or city, the fastest way to meet a wide range of pros is to join a professional association. Matt Anchin, svp of global communications and content at Monster, recommends the American Marketing Association, the Society of Professional Journalists or the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for recent graduates entering advertising, journalism or public relations. Link up with your alumni association while you're at it, and look for local groups like 212 NYC, which attracts young digital advertising workers with beach parties and agency quiz bowl contests.

Don't be short and selfish when meeting new contacts

"Networking is self-serving to a point, but if it's a one-way street. Nobody really wants to be involved in that kind of relationship," said Sophia Woodhouse, chief revenue officer at 212 NYC. Be curious, and ask how you can help your contacts. That adds value to the conversation for everyone. 

"What you want to project out is [the] value you can bring to the potential employer," Anchin said. "Be aware that there is a professional ecosystem that you exist in and what you deliver to that ecosystem."

Do follow up with speakers at events

When you attend professional events, make the most of those endless panel discussions by introducing yourself to the speakers afterward and asking questions about something from the session. This might feel like an overly bold move, but it shows you're interested in the topic and will likely make the speaker feel flattered, not annoyed. "It makes me know they listened to me," Woodhouse said. "I'm interested to hear their response [to my panel] because it's my opinion."

Don't send generic LinkedIn invitations

LinkedIn is a good place to establish contact. But if you're reaching out to someone you don't know very well, take the time to personalize your invitation by including where you met him or why you're making the connection. "Whenever I don't know someone, and they send me a LinkedIn connection with a canned response, I always decline those," said Michele Weisman, new business manager at Likeable Media. "Those aggravate me because I don't know if this person wants to steal my connections."

Do join Twitter chats for more informal networking opportunities

For a gesture that's more subtle than a LinkedIn invite, head to Twitter to follow people you don't know well but whose work you admire. Weekly Twitter chats like #wjchat for web journalists and #AdweekChat for marketers are fantastic ways to meet peers and pick up ideas—much like the digital equivalent of a cocktail party.

"It's intimidating to go on LinkedIn and just blindly request someone's friendship without knowing who they are, but a Twitter chat allows you to interact without interacting," said Pamela Chvotkin, a freelance production assistant and stage manager. She suggested reaching out to participants after the chat to say, "Hey, I really liked your idea on this topic. I'd love to chat with you about your role at your company and explore that a little bit more." 

Don't make open-ended requests