Networking. The word alone can make most people feel uncomfortable. It’s not easy to walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation, but this is what you need to do well at networking events.
And if you don’t attend these events, then the opportunities for connecting with new people will be few and far between. In this post, you will learn six secrets that will help you improve your networking skills!
Some of the best networking opportunities happen in unexpected places. You never know when you might run into someone and strike up a conversation, so it’s always good to be prepared for any situation. Carry silver foil business cards with your contact information on them at all times. It can’t hurt! – Join professional associations or volunteer organizations.
These groups are networking gold mines because most of the members will be in professions that you might not have much experience with, but they’re a great way to get valuable insight from people who know what they’re talking about.
When meeting someone for the first time, always ask them what their job is and how long they’ve been doing it. This will give you a good idea of what they’re working on and might help provide more information to someone looking for potential connections that match your skillset.
Clear, concise communication is the key to successful networking. Remember that you represent yourself and your company and those who came before you in this industry. If someone can’t understand what they’re supposed to do or how they should go about doing their job when talking with a customer, then either A) there’s a flaw in the instructions, or B) there’s something wrong with how you communicated with them.
The key to clear communication is understanding your audience and what their needs are before making any statements. In addition, you need to know who they are likely to be talking to if possible so that you can tailor your words accordingly for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
The second and equally important part of the equation is knowing what you want them to do when talking with a customer. Many people fail at networking (especially younger professionals) by thinking about themselves rather than their buyers or potential customers. So it’s important to articulate why you’re talking with them in the first place and what they should do when interacting with customers. Communicating is a secret to improving your networking skills.
Keep the conversation fresh and exciting: If you’re getting bored, it’s time to switch things up! Change your tone of voice. Ask more questions. Tell a story or two from your past that relates to what they are telling you about themselves. Let them know when you have something in common with them–when their words give you a feeling of relief, understanding, or excitement.
The number one secret to great networking is being genuinely interested in the person you are talking to: It’s not about what they can do for you–it’s all about how much they have that makes them exciting and unique. Be nice! Don’t talk too loud, interrupt people, or talk too much. Don’t try to sell anything unless they ask you about it first, and don’t try to take over the conversation.
If you want to be a leader, the first thing you need to do is take the initiative. People who are proactive and don’t wait for someone else to solve their problems or develop ideas will make themselves indispensable in any company. It’s important to understand that it can be difficult for your boss to see the best in you without taking the initiative.
If you’re always waiting for someone else to take charge, it can be challenging for them and others to understand how capable of a leader or problem-solver you are.
Doing more than is asked of yourself shows initiative as well:
- Volunteering for different projects.
- Going out of your way to take care of others.
- Going above and beyond in any task you’re assigned in all ways that show initiative.
It also shows how capable you are as a leader when problem-solving or brainstorming new ideas. The initiative is the one thing that can make people see leadership potential in you and also help you network and become a leader in your company.
Analyze your contacts and resources. This is the most obvious but often neglected or overlooked action an individual can take to improve their networking skills. Take a good look at who you know right now- that’s all you need for a start! When we think about how to network well, it is imperative to spend quality time with these contacts and seek out new opportunities and different avenues for networking.
Next, consider your resources- what do you have that someone else might need? What can you offer the world around you? This is not a question of bragging or being pretentious; it’s about understanding yourself as an individual who wants to succeed in their career.
Also, make sure to analyze the resources and contacts you already have in your life; they might not be as helpful as you think!
The skill of follow-up is one that many people don’t invest in, and it’s a shame. The best way to improve your networking skills is by investing time into following up with the people you connect with- not just when they share their contact information- but every month after meeting them. This doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.
For example, if you met someone at a conference and exchanged contact information, send them an email every month with the latest updates from your company or what’s happening in their industry.
If they hosted a networking event for you to meet new prospects, send out follow-up emails after people have had some time to think about it.
The final point about improving your networking skills is that it’s essential to be yourself and not someone you think other people want you to be. Be authentic! You’ll come across as a more genuine person, making others feel comfortable engaging with you because they get the sense that they can trust you.
If someone makes you uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation. You don’t owe anyone anything because they were polite to you for a few minutes, and that’s it. Be smart about who you let into your life by following these secrets!
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