Networking is a crucial skill for professionals of all types, whether you’re looking to advance in your current career or explore new opportunities. But when it comes to interacting with people you don’t know very well, many of us struggle with anxiety or uncertainty.
Admittedly, it can be difficult to strike up conversations and establish meaningful connections if you aren’t used to reaching out to new people regularly. Fortunately, you can use simple strategies to boost your networking skills
and feel more confident about building relationships.
Boosting Your Networking Skills
One of the worst things you can do is overthink the process. Generally, if you show a genuine interest in people without overdoing it, you’ll be alluring to many other professionals. Keep in mind that they’re probably also working on building their network. And admittedly, networking can be daunting at first, so consider some of the following tips.
1. Put yourself out there.
2. Be genuine and authentic.
When it comes to networking, being yourself is always the best strategy. After all, people can tell right away when you’re acting fake or insincere. So, try not to put on a facade or pretend to be something that you’re not. Instead, let your true personality shine through. Show your natural confidence and exude positive energy. This will help others see you as a genuine and authentic person, which will make them more likely to remember you and want to connect with you in the future. And who knows? You may even meet some great new friends along the way!
3. Listen more than you talk.
When you’re talking to someone new, it’s easy to get caught up trying to impress them or sell yourself. To build rapport, though, ask questions, show genuine interest, and avoid interrupting or dominating the conversation. This will help you learn more about the other person, making them feel appreciated and valued. Instead of thinking about what you want to say next, practice active listening and ask follow-up questions
4. Be professional but friendly.
Remember that networking is a professional activity. So, as in any professional setting, it’s essential to be polite and respectful
, maintaining a professional demeanor. Avoid getting too personal, sharing negative work experiences, or discussing sensitive political topics. When talking about personal interests, such as hobbies or the latest movies, make sure they are appropriate for a business setting.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be stiff or formal. When you’re networking, try to balance being overly professional and being friendly. Smile, make eye contact and use open body language. This will help put people at ease and make them more likely to want to continue talking to you.
5. Ensure you follow up.
Connecting with another professional is only the first stage. After meeting someone new, follow up within a day or two before their memory of the conversation fades. It would be best if you made it a habit to have business cards handy at networking events, ensuring that any contact information is exchanged between professional addresses. If a phone call seems too pushy, consider sending an email or connecting with them via LinkedIn
. This will help keep the connection alive and increase the chances that you’ll grow a rewarding professional relationship.
6. Offer genuine help.
One great way to build new relationships is by offering help to others. Whether it’s introducing someone to someone else in your network or giving them a referral to a job that might be a great fit, people will appreciate your willingness to go out of your way to help them.
Rather than lunch or a bar, which insinuates a more extended time commitment, invite your new contact for coffee. Even if it’s not feasible to meet in person, you can ask them if they have time for a 15-minute coffee chat via Zoom. If you think they might be an excellent fit for a role in your organization or benefit from meeting another professional contact, invite them both. When you help others, they’ll be more likely to want to help you.
Build Healthy Professional Relationships
Building meaningful relationships takes practice, but it’s worth it. It’s not something you can perfect overnight, and it definitely won’t happen if you don’t put yourself out there. But by being genuinely interested in others, working on continuously maintaining your relationships, and following up after events or meetings, you can make networking a valuable part of your career development strategy
This article originally appeared in FlexJobs. FlexJobs is the leading career service specializing in flexible work, providing the largest database of vetted remote and flexible job listings. To support job seekers in all phases of their journey, FlexJobs offers a range of services including expert advice, job search events, and career coaching. FlexJobs also works with leading companies to recruit quality remote talent and optimize their remote and flexible workplace.
What’s your no. 1 piece of advice when it comes to networking? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!