In today’s increasingly interconnected world, remote work and online communications have become the norm. The importance of developing strong networking skills has never been greater.
Business professionals now face the challenge of building meaningful connections and fostering professional relationships in a predominantly digital landscape. Learning business skills that enable effective networking has become a crucial aspect of thriving in this new paradigm.
Here are several statistics highlighting the challenges of networking in business:
- Only 49% of people are able to maintain their professional connections. 41% of respondents said they would like to interact with their connections more, but they do not have the time.
- Maintaining connections is a challenge for many people. 49% of respondents said they are unable to keep up with their network due to various reasons.
- Millennials have the most difficulty maintaining connections. 43% of millennials find it difficult to stay in touch with their connections, more than any other age group.
To provide you with expert guidance in overcoming these pain points, we interviewed a diverse panel of experienced professionals. In this expert roundup, we present you with ten invaluable tips and insights based on their personal experiences in business.
Join us and discover these expert-advised strategies that will empower you to enhance your networking skills.
Expert Tips for Developing Networking Skills
Build a Network of Opportunities and Credibility
Roy Cohen, a renowned career coach and best-selling author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, strongly advocates for expanding your network with individuals who have the potential to elevate your career.
According to Cohen, having influential people in your network brings benefits even if they don’t offer immediate opportunities. Associating with successful professionals establishes credibility and helps connect with others. This pre-established credibility acts as a reassurance that you are a valuable and trustworthy contact.
Here are some tips on how to aim high and opportunistically when networking:
- Attend industry events and conferences. This is a great way to meet people who are already successful in your field.
- Join online networking groups. There are a number of online groups that can help you connect with people in your industry.
- Reach out to people on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people who you may not have met in person.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Reach out to people and introduce yourself.
Show Genuine Interest in Others
Chris Engelsman, Director of Marketing at All Seasons Resort Lodging, shares his experience and perspective on effective networking. Chris recounts a recent tradeshow party where he received a compliment on his networking skills, despite being naturally introverted. And this is how he did that:
When you are networking, focus on the other person. Ask them questions about their work, their interests, and their goals. This will make them feel valued and appreciated, and it will make them more likely to want to connect with you.
More tips for showing genuine interest in others:
- Practice active listening. When someone is talking to you, give them your full attention. Make eye contact, nod your head, and ask follow-up questions.
- Be a good conversationalist. Don’t just talk about yourself. Ask questions about the other person and really listen to their answers.
- Be positive and enthusiastic. People are more likely to want to connect with you if you are positive and enthusiastic.
Choose Your Circle Wisely
When you are networking, it is important to choose the people you connect with carefully. The people in your close circle should be people who are ambitious, supportive, and positive. They should be people who you can learn from and who can help you achieve your goals.
Martin Seeley is the founder and CEO of Mattress Next Day. He is also an investor, entrepreneur, and startup enthusiast. Martin’s tip of choosing your close circle wisely is something that he has learned through his own experience. He has seen firsthand how the people you surround yourself with can have a profound impact on your life.
Tips on how to choose your circle wisely:
- Be selective. When you are networking, don’t just connect with everyone you meet. Take the time to get to know people and see if they are a good fit for your close circle.
- Look for common ground. Look for things that you have in common with the people you meet. This will help you build rapport and make it easier to connect with them.
- Don’t be afraid to let go. As you grow and change, you may find that some of the people in your close circle are no longer a good fit for you. It is important to be willing to let go of these relationships so that you can make room for new ones.
Embrace Networking as a Lifestyle
Networking, often perceived as a task or an activity confined to specific events, has a much broader significance in our lives. It is not merely a task to be checked off a to-do list but a lifestyle that can shape our personal and professional growth.
Joshua Host, the founder of Thrivelab, a telehealth platform focused on making hormone health accessible and affordable nationwide, shares insights on this matter.
To improve networking skills and embrace networking as a lifestyle, consider the following tips:
- Be genuinely interested: Show genuine curiosity and interest in others by asking thoughtful questions and actively listening. Authentic engagement helps foster meaningful connections.
- Be proactive in social settings: Take the initiative to introduce yourself and strike up conversations with new people. You can do this even in casual social settings.
- Leverage online platforms: Utilize social media platforms and online communities to connect with professionals in your field of interest. Engage in conversations and contribute valuable insights.
Show Up as Yourself
Shelley Hancock, the founder and president of Shelley Hancock Consulting, a company dedicated to empowering estheticians in growing their businesses, shares her perspective on the importance of showing up as yourself in networking.
According to Shelley, there is a common misconception that networking requires putting on a façade and concealing one’s true personality. However, she strongly believes that authenticity is key to building meaningful connections.
Consider the following tips:
- Be confident. When you are networking, it is important to be confident in yourself and your abilities. This will show that you are someone who is worth getting to know.
- Be genuine. People can spot a fake a mile away. When you are networking, be genuine and authentic. This will make people more likely to trust you and want to do business with you.
- Be interested in others. When you are networking, don’t just talk about yourself. Ask questions and show that you are interested in the other person. This will make them feel valued and appreciated.
Embrace the Power of Digital Networking
Todd Saunders, the CEO of FlooringStores, encourages individuals to leverage platforms like LinkedIn to practice networking. In fact, a study by AudienceProject found that 84% of people use LinkedIn to build professional connections.
Online networking platforms offer a relaxed and comfortable environment. In contrast, traditional in-person events can bring expectations, pressure to make a good impression, and fear of rejection.
When interacting online, you can choose whom you connect with and how much time and effort you invest in each interaction. There is no immediate face-to-face interaction or time constraints that can add stress to the networking process.
Here are some tips for networking online:
- Create a strong profile. Your LinkedIn profile is your online calling card, so make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate. Include a professional headshot, a summary of your skills and experience, and a list of your education and work history.
- Comment on posts and articles. One of the best ways to get noticed on LinkedIn is to comment on posts and articles. When you comment on something, make sure you add value by sharing your thoughts and insights.
- Attend online events. LinkedIn hosts a variety of online events, such as webinars, workshops, and meetups. Attending these events is a great way to learn new things, network with other professionals, and stay up-to-date on industry trends.
Have a Positive Outlook
Larry Snider, the VP of Operations at Casago SB Rentals, believes that maintaining a positive mindset makes it easier to meet new people and build meaningful relationships.
When you are networking, it is important to be positive and upbeat. This will make you more approachable and likable, and it will make people more likely to want to do business with you.
Larry also emphasizes the importance of consistent communication and cultivating meaningful connections beyond mere transactional exchanges.
He are some tips to show positivity:
- Smile. A smile is a simple way to show that you are friendly and approachable.
- Be enthusiastic. Show that you are interested in what the other person has to say.
- Be positive. Avoid complaining or talking about negative things.
- Be helpful. Offer to help the other person, even if it is something small.
Be Present, Meet People in Person
In today’s digital world, it’s easy to get caught up in the world of social media and online networking. However, it’s important to remember that there’s still value in showing up in person.
Nabeel Abdullah, the Founder and CEO of Sapphire Retail Limited, a prominent brand in the textile industry, stresses the importance of being present and meeting people in person when it comes to networking.
Over 95% of professionals believe that in-person meetings are essential for business as they provide more precise initial impressions compared to online interactions.
Consider the following tips when networking in person:
- Be approachable: Create an open and welcoming demeanor that encourages others to approach and engage in conversations with you.
- Prepare and practice: Have a concise self-introduction and key talking points ready to confidently present yourself and your professional background.
- Volunteer or participate in committees: Engaging in volunteer work or committee participation within your industry provides valuable opportunities to network with like-minded individuals and establish meaningful connections.
Make a Good First Impression
The saying “first impressions last” holds a great deal of truth in our lives, whether we’re meeting someone for the first time, attending a job interview, or networking with professionals.
Keith Sant, the Founder and CEO of Kind House Buyers, emphasizes the importance of presenting oneself in the best light during networking encounters.
To improve the skill of making a good first impression, consider the following tips:
- Pay attention to your appearance: Make sure your attire aligns with the professional setting and reflects your personal brand.
- Practice your handshake: Aim for a firm handshake, maintaining eye contact and a friendly smile. Practice with friends or colleagues to enhance your technique.
- Maintain positive body language: Use open and welcoming body language, such as maintaining good posture, making eye contact, and smiling. Nonverbal cues can greatly influence how others perceive you.
Carl Jenson, a personal finance expert and the founder of Compare Banks, emphasizes the importance of offering value to others in your network.
Networking is a two-way street. If you want to build strong relationships with the people you meet, you need to be willing to offer value to them. This doesn’t mean that you have to do something big or expensive. Even small acts of kindness can make a big difference.
Here are some actionable steps to add value during networking:
- Be a good listener. When you are talking to someone, really listen to what they have to say. Ask questions and show that you are interested in what they are saying.
- Be helpful. If you can help someone, offer to do so. This could be anything from giving them advice to helping them find a job.
- Share resources. If you have any resources that you think would be helpful to someone, share them. This could be anything from a book to a website to a contact.
- Introduce people to each other. If you know two people who would benefit from knowing each other, introduce them. This is a great way to help both people and to build relationships with both people.
More Tips to Develop Networking Skills
Now that we’ve learned some valuable networking tips from experts, let’s explore additional tips and techniques to further refine our networking abilities.
- Set clear goals: Define your networking objectives and set both short-term and long-term goals. This will help you stay focused and measure your progress.
- Follow up: Always follow up with individuals you meet to maintain connections. Send personalized messages or emails to express your interest and gratitude.
- Attend networking events: Actively participate in networking events such as conferences, workshops, and industry gatherings. These events provide valuable opportunities to meet new people and expand your network.
- Practice active listening: Focus on listening attentively to others during conversations. Show genuine interest by asking open-ended questions and providing thoughtful responses.
- Network outside your comfort zone: Step out of your comfort zone and connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds or industries. This expands your network and opens up new opportunities for learning and collaboration.
- Maintain relationships: Networking is not just about making initial connections but also nurturing and maintaining relationships over time. Stay in touch with contacts, offer support, and celebrate their successes.
- Seek mentorship: Find mentors or industry experts who can provide guidance and support in your professional journey. Their insights can be invaluable for your networking efforts.
- Be a connector: Introduce people within your network who could benefit from knowing each other. Being a connector helps strengthen relationships and expands your network.
- Stay positive and persistent: Networking takes time and effort. Stay positive, be persistent, and embrace the opportunities that arise from networking.
- Continuous learning: Stay updated on industry trends, attend workshops or webinars, and invest in your professional development. This enhances your knowledge and makes you a valuable network contact.
Common Networking Events That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals
- Industry events: These events are typically organized by professional associations or trade groups and bring together people from a particular industry. They can be a great way to learn about new trends in your industry, meet potential employers, and make connections with other professionals.
- Meetups: Meetups are informal gatherings of people who share a common interest. There are Meetups for just about anything, from hiking to coding to book clubs. They can be a great way to meet new people, learn new skills, and find potential collaborators.
- Virtual networking groups: With the rise of online connectivity, virtual networking groups have gained popularity. These groups exist on social media platforms or online forums, and they facilitate networking through virtual events such as webinars, live Q&A sessions, and online presentations.
- Career fairs: Career fairs provide a platform for job seekers to connect with companies and explore employment opportunities. These events bring together a wide range of employers from various industries, allowing attendees to learn about different companies, submit resumes, and engage in conversations with hiring managers.
- Conferences and trade shows: Conferences are a great way to learn about new trends in your field, hear from experts, and network with other professionals. They can be a bit more expensive than other types of networking events, but they can also be a great investment in your career.
- Happy hours: Happy hours are a great way to meet new people and network in a casual setting. Many bars and restaurants offer happy hour specials on food and drinks, so you can save money while you network.
- Alumni events: Alumni events organized by educational institutions offer opportunities to reconnect with former classmates, professors, and industry professionals. These gatherings provide a supportive network for career development, mentorship, and collaboration among alumni.
- Volunteer events: Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and meet new people at the same time. When you volunteer, you’ll be working alongside other people who share your interests, which can make it easy to start conversations and build relationships.
Bonus tip: No matter what type of event you choose, be sure to dress professionally, bring business cards, and be prepared to talk about yourself and your skills. Networking can be a great way to boost your career, so don’t be afraid to get out there and start meeting people.
Frequently Asked Questions About Developing Networking Skills
1. Why are networking skills important?
Networking skills are crucial for finding job opportunities and increasing your hiring potential. They allow you to build strong interpersonal relationships, offer value to others, and expand your professional network.
2. How can I stay in contact with my network?
Maintaining regular contact is essential for nurturing your network. Use various means like social media, emails, phone calls, or in-person meetings to stay connected. Prioritize efforts that develop strong, long-term relationships with important connections.
3. How can networking help in job search?
Networking plays a significant role in job searching. By building a strong network, you increase your chances of learning about job openings through referrals and recommendations from connections. Networking allows you to tap into the hidden job market where positions may not be publicly advertised.
4. How can networking help me in my business?
Networking plays a crucial role in business growth and success. Through networking, you can connect with potential clients, suppliers, investors, and industry experts who can contribute to your business growth.
5. Can I learn networking skills?
Absolutely! Learning networking skills is possible and highly beneficial. Skill Success offers courses that can help you learn networking skills and advance your career. The flexible nature of online courses allows you to learn at your own pace and access course materials from anywhere.
Networking plays a crucial role in business growth and success. It allows you to build meaningful relationships, access new opportunities, and gain valuable knowledge and insights from your peers. By following the advice shared by the experts, you can strengthen your networking abilities and leverage the power of connections to advance your professional endeavors.
To further support your journey in developing networking skills, subscribe to the Skill Success All Access Pass. It provides unlimited access to a wide range of online courses, including networking courses, offered by experts from around the world. With Skill Success, you have the flexibility to learn at your own pace, anytime and anywhere.
May your networking efforts bring you great connections and fruitful opportunities.
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