Networking – 10 tips to improve your networking skills

Networking is becoming even more critical in our working life. Some of the reason’s are as follow’s

  • As companies become flatter and less hierarchical we are expected to work with colleagues in all areas of the business to assist with our projects
  • As knowledge workers we work on more complex projects and tasks. We are not all expected to know the full solutions, but we are expected to be able to source the ideas and answers.
  • Organisations are changing the way we recruit. So many companies are recruiting people on a contract or freelance basis, so to find work we need to know what work is out there. Work opportunities are not always advertised as ‘jobs’ in the traditional way.
  • The workplace and our environment is changing as such a speed so we need to ensure that we are keeping up to date and learning from our peers so we are up to date.
  • Careers are boundaryless and we find people are moving from one industry to another – a diverse network is needed to support creating these opportunities

Because of these reasons, networking is becoming one of the top skills that large organisations are prioritising as a development requirement with their employees. Another reason for the increase in training in networking skills is that research shows that face to face networking is not a strong skill in our new Gen Y employees so it is something organisations should be training their new recruits, but also an area that team leaders and managers can support the development of with encouragement, creating opportunities and support to their colleagues.

Networking can make people feel anxious and nervous but it’s important to remember that networking is a skill, and like any other skill it can be developed with training and coaching. People’s perception on networking that it’s about sales and making deals, but it’s not just that, networking is also about building connections, learning, seeing opportunities, mentoring and helping others.

In a recent presentation on networking I shared 10 tips to improve your networking skills so I wanted to present them in my blog too so they can be shared with any other readers.

1.       Be prepared

Networking skillsThis means go to any events with your business card and your pitch. If you don’t have a pitch ready then practise how you are going to introduce yourself. Remember your pitch can be different depending on your reason for attending that event. For example if you are there to learn about a particular subject then say that as part of your pitch, or if you are there to make connections in a certain industry then say that as you introduce yourself to others.

 

 

2.       Engage

Engage with audienceDo talk to other people and engage in conversation. Listen to other people and what they are saying. People like to feel that they are being listened to so react and respond to what someone is telling you. Ask questions to show you are listening. Training in emotional intelligence or understanding social styles can assist with this if you feel this is a challenge for you

 

 

3.       Research

ResearchBefore you go to any event, research the venue, attendees, speakers, sponsoring companies and the organising company. Know who will be there and why, and then identify anyone you may wish to speak to. Ask for an introduction from the organiser to anyone you may want to speak to on the day.

 

 

 

4.       Connect on social media

ConnectFollow up with people you have met and connect on LinkedIn  When you send the mail, send a personal message so people will remember where they met you, but also it helps for your own records as if you are searching that person in the future you will then have a reminder on your own record of where you met. Twitter is also a great way to connect with people prior and at an event. Follow the hashtag for the event to listen to what other people are saying about the day. It’s a quick and friendly way of connecting with people out of your existing network and with speakers.

5.       Support team and colleagues

Support networkEncourage your colleagues to attend events, and support them with any challenges they may face. Provide a forum for discussion and sharing of information within your organisation so your business is learning from all networking.

Also introduce your colleagues to people they may find interesting and may assist with their networking goals

 

 

6.       Remember it is a two way process

Networking is a two way process, it’s not just about what you can get from new contacts. It’s about sharing your contacts, knowledge and information and any good networker will do this well. It is also about asking for help, you should be able to reach out to your network and ask for help about a project, or with a question, contact request, career help or lead.

 

 

7.       Stay in touch

ContactSuccessful leaders spend at least an hour a week working on their network. Spend some time each week checking in with your network. It could be sharing an article, making an introduction, saying hello or meeting for coffee

 

 

 

8.       Assess your network

Networking skillsOne of the key processes in developing your network is do analyse it for over dependencies  and gaps and then ensure your networking strategy is in line with your organisation and personal goals. We often naturally develop overdependencies in our networks as the people we talk to most are usually in a similar role to ourselves.  It is important to develop your network in line with your networking and career goals. To find out more about strategic network analysis, please Clare for a self-analysis tool.

 

 

9.       Don’t be afraid to go alone and don’t stick to people you know
NetworkingOften at events you see a group of people from one company huddled together for the day. It feels safe but the reality is that you are missing out on many opportunities to meet other people, so break away from your colleagues and say hello to others. Going alone to an event is often easier as you can talk freely without worrying about what your colleagues is doing and if they are ok.

 

 

10.   See opportunities and say yes

Networking skillsThere are many opportunities for networking so say yes to the project at work, or the committee meeting or the event you see. Also look at other networks in your life, such as friends, hobbies, volunteer groups, sports, social events etc and start thinking about the people in those groups. It is likely that a lot of people in your life are not considered as part of your network but when you start reaching out and talking about what you need help with, you will probably find a lot more assistance than you realised

 

Best of luck with your networking. If you would like further training on how to be an expert networker, then check out my course on Psychology of NetworkingThe date for the next open course is 2nd September

 

 

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