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Top 10 Networking Etiquette Tips

Handshake between professionals in white shirts.

Etiquette is just plain good manners and common courtesy. Successful business relationships, just like successful personal relationships, rely on this. However, veterans tend to have some difficulty adjusting from the military culture of strict military bearing to a civilian professional culture which can be much more gray and undefined. Below are some general guidelines and networking principles that will help you adjust to the civilian professional culture.

1. Arrive on time, or better yet arrive 10 minutes early. Showing up late is disrespectful and is a red flag of poor character and time management. It signals that you think your time is more important and valuable than those at the meeting. Early arrival demonstrates enthusiasm and respect for people's time. Furthermore, an early arrival gives you time to settle in and further plan your activities.

2. Place your nametag on the right side and as high as appropriate on your garment. This puts it in a direct line of eye contact with people you will meet and helps people see and remember your name.

3. Exchange business cards with ease. Place several loose cards in your right pocket or in a spot where you can reach them easily without digging or rummaging through your pockets, purse, or wallet. Make sure your business cards are fresh and up to date.

4. Do not walk around with a stack of resumes, and do not just hand out your resumes to everyone you meet. Keep your resume in a folder or attaché until it becomes obvious it is needed.

5. Make eye contact with each person you are about to meet. Looking someone in the eye shows respect and that you are honest and trustworthy.

6. Shake hands, if appropriate, firmly. There is nothing worse than a cold, fishy, loose grip. On the other hand, do not use a death grip either. This is not a contest to prove your strength. There are different types of handshakes that signal via body language your intent. A handshake that puts one person's hand firmly and purposefully on top of the other person's hand is a signal of dominance and power. Grasping another person's arm or shoulder while shaking hands signals that you have supreme confidence and are someone who assumes command of the situation.

7. Be aware of the difference between business, social, and personal space. Business space is five or more feet apart and conveys proper business distance. Social space is between two and four feet apart and conveys a warmer, friendlier feeling amenable to discussion. Personal space is closer than two feet and causes many people discomfort unless they invite you into their space with a double-grasp handshake, pull you in, place a hand on your shoulder, or otherwise move to close the space.

8. Welcome others into your conversation with grace and a smile. Extend your hand(s) with the palm up, welcome them, and be inclusive.

9. Don't try to eat and carry on a conversation. Do one or the other, not both at the same time.

10. If you drink and carry on a conversation, either use little or no ice or wrap napkins around the glass. A cold glass leads to a cold handshake.

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