Mention the word “networking” to nearly anyone in the career field and you’re likely to get a bit of a grimace in reply. Why? Unfortunately, many people have come to view networking in a negative light, associating it with “salesy” or superficial chatter, or with a need to be slick and charming. Networking events can feel forced and phony, seeming more like a burden than an opportunity.
None of these portraits is inherently true. When done naturally and authentically, networking can be not only a pleasure, but an incredibly valuable piece of the career puzzle. Networking is important to help you meet all kinds of people in your industry: entrepreneurs, leaders, even those like you who may just be starting out. This develops connections with future colleagues, gives you inside knowledge about career moves, and helps you generally remain relevant and informed.
There are many, many skills that can be enhanced and applied to networking, but here are the three that are most vital:
Skill #1 – Focus on Your Passion, Not Your Pitch
Some old school networking techniques suggest creating a short, succinct “elevator sales pitch” that allows you to share your career goals, experience, or platform in a few catchy sentences. While you should be fully prepared to discuss your occupational aims with those you meet, it’s better to communicate from a place of passion and commitment, not repeating a memorised mantra. Instead of trying to showcase your achievements and abilities in 60 seconds, why not search for a common, uniting passion between you and your new contact? Discuss what you love about what you do, and share your hopes for the industry. This broader approach allows for you to create a more authentic connection, which will turn that new contact into a valuable resource–or perhaps even a friend.
Skill # 2 – Emphasise Listening, Not Talking
When networking, it can feel like you need to share all of your skills, qualifications, and ideas very quickly, ensuring you “hook” a contact. This is really not the case. Those who talk nonstop can seem overbearing or at worst, obnoxious and self-centered. A balance between talking and listening is best, but for most people, this means they will need to focus 100% on the listening portion.
Good general skills in this regard involve looking people in the eye, remembering names, smiling, and presenting an overall warm and welcoming persona. Listening can also mean keeping the conversation about the other person, and not about yourself. This can extend to any emails you might send or other contact you might make; you can start off focusing on their plans, achievements, ideas, and then move forward emphasising your shared passion, and perhaps suggesting ways in which you can work or build something together.
Skill # 3 – Learn the Art of the Follow Up
If you’ve met someone through a networking event or otherwise and have a sense that this could be a solid relationship, be sure to ask for the best way to stay in touch with them. In our digital age, many business people are likely to want to connect through email. Make sure you contact them within a few days. Emailing within 48 hours is a good rule of thumb. This ensures your meeting is fresh in their mind and they are much more likely to remember you and the details of your conversation, particularly if you’ve met at a heavily-attended event where you’ve both spoken to dozens of people. When reaching out, mention something tangible and memorable from your conversation or connection. This also assists the person in remembering you more vividly.
After the initial email or other communication, don’t let this contact fall to the wayside. Following up must be subtle, yet persistent enough to make a statement and not go unnoticed. Following up repeatedly doesn’t mean sending the same request over and over, however. This can grow tiresome and have the opposite effect on your potential new connection. Rather, keep in touch more broadly, sending them valuable articles you come across or beginning a dialogue regarding an industry question or news development. This keeps the conversation about your shared passion, and leads the way gently to a stronger networking relationship.
Building Your Skills
There are many ways to build your networking skills, the most important of which is practice. Getting out there and generating connections with anyone you meet is perhaps the most valuable way to continually build your network and hone your skills.
Studying with LMIT can also be an incredible stepping stone towards improving this skill. Not only will a training program at LMIT equip you with career-oriented skills and understanding, but you’ll work with our experienced faculty in relevant courses that emphasise the importance of real-world business skills such as networking. No matter what career path you choose, a qualified educational program like those at LMIT can prepare you for your career and show you the best ways to get there.
Published by: LMIT