Effective Networking Skills – How to improve on what you already know
All our lives, we’ve been taught that if you work hard, and you do well, you will get noticed, and you will advance in your profession. Sadly, research suggests that there’s very little connection between how well you work, your skills and your overall job performance, and your career outcomes.
What has been proven to have more of an impact to most people’s career improvement has been their relationships with people in their respective industries. Relationships they have built and nourished over a long period, often, over years.
It doesn’t really matter what field you’re in, or how far up you are on your career ladder. What seems to determine success, to large extent, are the relationships you have developed inside and outside your work environment. It is therefore vital that you develop and maintain a strong network of contacts, acquaintances, even friends, if you want to succeed in your business or chosen careers.
So what does it take to develop strong, effective networking skills?
What’s In A Word?
When people hear the word “networking,” people think of shallow connections, mostly manipulative, with the sole purpose of expanding one’s career opportunities. They don’t even want to consider it as a strategy for success. If that’s the case for you, then don’t even use the word! Come up with other ways to describe the process.
You can call it “building bridges,” or “a group of people open to helping one another.” Use a term you’re comfortable with. What you should not do is not develop this skill simply because you don’t like what the term implies. Understand one thing: your goal is to succeed in your career, or in business. You’re not out to manipulate anyone into helping you fool other people. What you’re looking for is an opportunity to present yourself, and your skills, to people who might be able to help nudge your career forward.
Also, you discount the fact that you may have skills that will be essential to other people! Networking is not just about you. It’s about all of you trying to see if your connections can lead to promising, if not lucrative, associations.
So next time you have an opportunity to meet new people, remember, you’re growing your connections. One of those connections may ultimately help you move forward. Or, you may be in a position, yourself, to help someone else. It’s a village of people willing to help one another succeed.
When you’re at an event or an industry function, business cards fly out of people’s hands and into other people’s hands and pockets. And there it stays, often, forgotten. But when you meet someone you definitely want to stay connected with, e-mail them as soon as the event is done, signaling that you want to keep the connection going!
Of course, this will only work if you have somehow made yourself memorable to the people that you’ve met. So, make sure that you sell yourself, and your skills! What are you bringing to this table? What can you offer people that they can use?
You must always be ready to let people know what you’re good at. What’s your expertise? Come up with a headline for yourself. Place that in your e-mail signature, on your calling cards, as well as on your social media profiles. Place it where people will see it when they scan anything that’s about you.
It’s important to remind people all the time why you are relevant to them, or to someone they know. It’s not annoying, especially when done right. There’s nothing wrong with selling your brand. Businesses worldwide do it every day. Don’t get left behind!
It’s Not About Making New Friends
People make the mistake of assuming that in order for networking relationships to work, that there needs to be a deeper level to it. People do not get into these relationships to make friends. They have those. No. They know exactly why they’re connecting with people. And it’s not about new friendships.
Although, there’s nothing wrong with connections ultimately becoming friends. There are no rules against that. But friendships, really deep and meaningful ones, take time. It takes multiple meetings that you, and your connections, may not have the time for.
This is where having a solid story, and a great headline for yourself and your skills, come in handy. All these help to keep you on top of people’s minds. Also, you need to follow and interact with them on social media. Keep them on your e-mail mailing list for work updates. Remember them on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, then, drop them a line. They will appreciate the fact that you took that time to remember them.
You don’t need friendship in order to have a good relationship with your connections and contacts. You just need to be there, ever present but not too obtrusive. Be memorable without being a nuisance. And if at one point you’re able to help them out, then you will definitely stand out!
Ask The Right Questions
Showing a healthy level of curiosity for people you’re conversing with at parties or cocktails will leave a positive impression on people. They will see in you someone who’s not just interested in selling himself, but someone who is genuinely interested in them and what they have to say.
Develop questions beforehand that you can ask and will likely move the conversation along. Give them the opportunity to think about how to respond. And answer their questions back. This back and forth will expose a lot of information about the person you’re talking to, and likewise, give them a glimpse into who you are and what you’ve got to offer as a contact. And this builds trust. More importantly, your interest and your ability to hold a conversation that is not always about business, will make people like you. They will take notice of that.
It’s Who You Know
Nothing is truer than this: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And frankly, that statement gets a bad rap, too! But think about it. That is an honest statement about business success today. Because as important as your skills are, it’s those personal connections that really move you forward.
We are social creatures. And much of our decisions about people are based on how we feel about them. You may be the most talented person in your team, but if people don’t like you, or worse, if they don’t know who you are, then who’s going to help you advance your career? Our valedictorian in high school is not the most successful person in our class today. It’s the ones who are great at connecting with people, who seem to be having the best time with their careers.
Everyone understands the basics of networking, or connecting with others. But we have not, all of us, developed these skills as well as others. And if you’re keen on moving ahead in your careers and in your business, then you need to improve your networking skills!
One strategy I’ve used is to find mentors who will guide me and help me get better at this very crucial skill. So far, I am learning a lot from these people. If you want to learn more about them, I urge you to click on the link below.
Business is business. As long as you’re honest and upfront with people, as long as you treat them with respect and openness, you shouldn’t worry about how people perceive you or your agenda. Your agenda, like everyone else, is to succeed in your chosen career or in your business. Don’t make any apologies for that. Networking is a tool. A set of skills that when used right, can help everyone within your community of contacts, not just you.
Good luck! Should you have any stories or comments you’d like to add to the discussion, please do so! We look forward to hearing from you! In the meantime, thank you for spending time reading this article.