Anyone who has achieved success in their career has been surrounded and guided by a network of talented and insightful people along the way. Who you surround yourself with and how actively you seek advice and guidance from others in your career can have a huge impact on your career development. From improving your confidence to opening up career opportunities and receiving direct career advice, the benefits of networking are huge. Improving your networking skills is a great way to help advance your career trajectory, especially for those at the start of their career journey.
What are networking skills?
Networking is the act of building professional relationships. The key word here is ‘relationship.’ What’s required for networking is the same as what’s required to build any relationship: good communication, putting time into building the relationship and giving to the relationship as much as you’re getting out.
What’s perhaps different about networking, however, is that you’re likely to have a specific professional goal in mind. As such, there are ways to approach networking in a more strategic and direct way. Understanding your goals and how you can use networking to aid you in your career is just as important as putting in the work to build professional relationships.
5 ways to improve your networking skills
When meeting other professionals in person, whether at work, at an event or outside a professional setting, listening skills are of the utmost importance. Listening actively is key to being able to show you are engaged in the conversation, make insightful comments, and ask good questions. If you can do these things, you have a very good chance of making a good impression and laying the foundation for a potential strong professional relationship.
2. Aim to make friends, not contacts
Inauthenticity is not your friend when it comes to networking. If you try to present yourself as something you’re not or present yourself as only connecting for your self-interest, you’ll likely only find unfruitful, superficial, transactional business relationships. To build rich relationships that offer guidance, support and long-term value to your professional life, you need to be yourself and show that you’re just as interested in giving all you have to offer to the relationship.