Jul 22, 2021

How to Improve Your Networking Skills

Whether you work for yourself or for someone else, if you’re not actively building your networking skills, you’re not growing your career. Making new and meaningful connections in today’s world can go a long way in growing your business. This is where the importance of networking comes in. Networking skills are as important as having good communication or social skills, and it adds value to both your personal and professional environments.

So why is it important to network and how can you improve your networking skills?

We’ve got some handy dos and don’ts for you that will help you become a master at creating meaningful professional connections. Here we go!

Be genuine! The most meaningful connections don’t just come from handing out your business card like poker chips. Treat the person or people you’re trying to connect with as a potential friend rather than a business contact. This mindset will take you much further in creating a long-lasting relationship and you may even make a new friend in the process.

Remember that people are constantly flooded with networking requests, so make sure that you have a compelling reason to send that connection request to someone. If you’re in job market and have been actively job hunting, you will have the time to send out these connection requests to people in your network. Remember to only send out a message or connection request if you’re sure that this is the right person to contact for the said job or business opportunity, to avoid wasting valuable time.

Long gone are the days where you could only connect with people only by speaking with them directly or over the phone. There are multiple avenues that are available at your disposal, so make use of these platforms and become a cross-platform master! The importance of networking across multiple platforms cannot be stressed enough and the developing your online networking skills will go a long way in connecting you to the right people. So, get comfortable communicating via emails, texts, Zoom, Skype, LinkedIn and more.

Another great way to make meaningful connections are to attend networking events. This is also a way to practice your networking skills in a relaxed setting with minimal stress. Ask questions and listen to what people have to say at these networking events. This will show people that you’re interested in knowing more about them, instead of merely exchanging business cards. We also understand that in the present day, it’s not easy to meet a large group of people face-to-face, but there are online networking events you can sign up for, so do make use of these online events.

Using humor and finding common interests are very effective icebreakers when you’re attending networking events or even just trying to build a new connection. This makes you likeable and more memorable. It also diffuses tension and builds a positive environment that humanizes the parties involved. Do remember to keep the situation and the individual you’re interacting with in mind before you pull out your arsenal of jokes. Keep things neutral and light, and you’ll go a long way in establishing a positive connection.

Have a positive attitude when trying to expand your network. You may not receive positive responses from the other party all the time but maintaining a positive outlook will automatically show in your approach. Friendly people are memorable and let’s face it, not many people want to interact with a negative individual. When you appear upbeat and positive about your potential, it shines through to your prospective network connections or investors. Be the ray of sunshine that you are and watch your network grow!

Position yourself as a resourceful individual. Be it giving a great referral to your former colleague or an acquaintance, put yourself in the position of being a useful and resourceful contact. This in turn makes other people want to be resourceful for you when you need it. One way to do this is to make social media your ally. Remember not to spam anyone, but truly take the time to understand what their needs are and then use your mad skills to connect them to the right person who can help them out. People are receptive to an individual who has helped them in the past, and as we like to say; no good deed goes unrewarded!

One of the fastest ways to grow your network is to interview people but do make sure that you go about this strategically. This could be about interviewing someone whose work you’ve admired, or even inviting this person to be a guest speaker on your podcast. Starting a podcast might not be your cup of tea, but you could even have a blog where you interview other influencers in your network. You can change the format of your interview to suit the medium you’re most comfortable with, and the result would be that you’ve ended up with a great new connection. Ask insightful questions and pay attention to their responses. People like to feel heard and appreciated, and a request to interview them so you can learn more about what inspires them is an amazing way to build your network.

A very important step that most of us forget is to follow up with our connections. Always follow up with the people in your network and stay in touch with them even after you’ve got what you wanted out of that professional relationship and remember to stay positive in your interactions. Don’t keep score and be willing to connect, give, share, and treat your connection as a friend instead of merely a steppingstone onto your next venture.

Practice makes it perfect! Any skill needs honing before you can master it, and the same goes for your networking skills. Remember that the more you network, the better you become at it. In a world where it’s all about taking, being able to show that you genuinely care enough to interact with someone as a friend will make you a memorable contact to your network connections.