Even for the extroverts out there, networking can be a difficult game to play. It takes strategy, practice, a good attitude and patience. The following tips provide some insight on how to improve your networking skills so you can grow your list of professional contacts and connections.
1. Keep it real
When it comes to how to improve your networking skills, authenticity is key. At the very root of networking, it’s about connecting with other people, finding common ground and exploring the mutual interests you have with others. So, don’t overthink it. It’s less about coming off as smart and powerful and more about being present and interested in others. Look at networking as merely a chance to get to know new people who happen to work in the same and similar industries. Smile, introduce yourself, ask questions and relax.
2. Invest in finding common ground and interests with those around you
Networking is great for curious people. Those who have many interests will be able to easily find others with similar interests or at least shared curiosities. Be prepared to ask questions and share with others about life beyond what happens at the office.
3. Set attainable goals
Setting weekly or monthly networking goals is an effective and practical way to benchmark your progress. Commit yourself to networking for a certain amount of hours each week or decide you’ll grab coffee with one new person each week. Whatever you decide, stick to your commitment and don’t forget to include following up in your networking time.
4. Always do your best work and be a team player
Networking doesn’t have to take place at conferences or fancy events, it’s also something that happens at your job, school or internships. Whenever you prove your competence to those around you, you’re communicating to the rest of your team that you’re a person to depend on, you do a good job. The same goes for people who work well as a team. When you build up a positive reputation where you work, your coworkers become part of your network. They can vouch for your skill and work ethic and may end up making useful professional introductions for you in the future. Never burn bridges at a job – you don’t know where those bridges might lead to one day.
5. Ask questions
If you know how to ask insightful questions, networking will become a lot easier. A question is the best way to open the floor up to a new person to share something about either their professional or personal experience – or a mix of both. Asking questions also communicates your interest in forming a connection and can end up starting a rich conversation.
6. Remember: Networking is about quality over quantity
It’s much better to have 10 solid professional relationships than 100 new contacts on LinkedIn. Relationships formed in real-life, over genuine mutual interests and common ground, are much more likely to bear fruit in the future. If your network is full of people you don’t really have a relationship with, you probably won’t be first in line to hear about a new job opportunity or get the inside scoop about a new start-up company, etc.
7. Follow up
If you want to know how to improve your networking skills, learning to invest in following up is crucial. We can’t just plant seeds and expect them to grow without any TLC. We have to water our garden of professional contacts with follow-ups. A quick email, phone call or coffee date can go a long way.
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Sources: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/careers/2017/05/05/how-to-improve-your-networking-skills/, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245995, https://www.forbes.com/sites/thesba/2013/01/24/improve-your-networking-skills-right-now/#4c8a0ea96e3e