If you want to take your career to the next level, networking can be an invaluable tool to help you do it. Because of this, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about how you can initiate networking conversations with other professionals. But what about exiting those conversations?
"There's so much focus placed on how we begin networking conversations. But, hardly anyone ever talks about how to end them in a way that's polite, professional, and doesn't involve a bunch of excuses or cringe-worthy pauses," observes The Muse contributor Kat Boogaard.
One of the easiest ways to end a networking conversation politely, according to Boogaard, is to ask for a business card.
"In the age of LinkedIn, admittedly, it's something I often find myself skipping. However, here's the great thing about capping off a conversation by asking for that card: You not only get that person's contact details, but you also make it clear that the discussion is coming to a close," she says. "After you both have exchanged information? It's as simple as saying, 'It was great talking to you -- I'm really looking forward to keeping in touch!' and moving on to your next conversation."
Another tactic: If it's a conversation you want to continue -- later, not now -- you can schedule a time to do so.
"Successful networking isn't about singular meetings -- it's about laying the groundwork for continued professional relationships," Boogaard says. "It's easy to say you'll connect soon as you're walking away from that discussion. But, actually pulling out your calendar and finding a time when you both could grab lunch or coffee is a great way to prove that you're serious about staying in touch. Plus, part of what makes saying goodbye at networking events so uncomfortable is that you don't want to be perceived as if you're blowing that person off for something better. This tactic gives you the freedom to go your separate ways and mingle, without making that other person feel used and discarded."
Of course, there's always the chance that you're overthinking it. "If you're ever in doubt?" Boogaard concludes. "Remember that a simple, 'It was really great talking with you!' always does the trick."