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How to (Finally!) Master the Art of Networking

by Julie Miles / April 24, 2024

Networking is the process of building your professional contacts. Every member of your network should be someone for whom both people can provide each other some mutual benefit. You might trade professional insights, influential favors, or it can start with simply being lunch buddies at professional events. The bigger your network, the more people you can call upon for help, advice, or professional support when you need it – and the more people you can help in return.

Of course, no one is born with networking skills, and many struggle with at least one part of the process. Maybe you have trouble reaching out, or you connect well but then can’t keep in touch. Maybe you are constantly making connections with little value, or you lack confidence in your ability to grow your network from a few professional contacts.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are many techniques you can use to master networking once and for all.

 

The 5 Key Factors of Networking Success

What are key indicators of networking success? A recent study from the Nasdaq Center discovered that there are five essential ways of thinking that can help you achieve more effective networking results. Some people come by these perspectives naturally, but you can intentionally rearrange your thoughts to become better at networking, as well.

1. Cognitive Flexibility

People who are more receptive to new ideas are more likely to thrive when making new connections. Every person is unique, from their lifestyle to their opinions. Cognitive flexibility is a combination of creative and receptive thinking that helps you to understand new people that you meet, which will boost your ability to build connections in your network.

2. Constructive Thinking

Positive thinking, what the study calls “promotion focus” is a thought process that focuses on improving your situation, rather than worrying about what can go wrong. Constructive or positive thinking can help you identify opportunities to network and ways to be helpful to your contacts instead of holding back based on fears.

3. Self-Confidence

Self-efficacy or “percieved prowess” is another studied factor of networking success. In other words, if you are confident that you can network, you are more likely to succeed at networking. This is, in part, because networking is about getting out there, making connections, and rolling with both the connections and the occasional lack of connection along the way. If you think you can, then you will.

4. Persistence

Persistence is the simple element of not quitting. The more you try to network, the more chances you create to succeed. You might make a new friend, a casual connection, or an influential ally with each new try.

5. Future-Focused

Lastly, people who are future-focused are more likely to thrive when networking. It’s all about what you can do and achieve from your starting point, which is today. A temporal focus on the future often indicates a person who will do well at networking.

 

Develop Your Networking Skills and Strategies

Networking is a learned set of skills. There is always another opportunity to get better at networking, honing your skills and strategies along the way RH reports that the following eight techniques can help you achieve more from your networking efforts.

Build Relationships

Once you make a professional connection, nurture it. Take the time to build contacts into friendly acquaintances and friendly acquaintances into friends and connections. Be open, honest, and engage with the people in your network to become a familiar and positive force.

Keep In Touch

Don’t let your contacts go stale. The task of keeping in touch falls on you, if you want to build and maintain connections. Reach out, be supportive, and prioritise the possibility of long-term relationships with your network connections.

Leverage Influential Connections

Know what defines useful influence for your network. Determine which contacts are more likely to yield the desired results and continue to engage. Use criteria to determine a contact’s level of influence and what their connection might provide you in the future.

Stay Positive

Give yourself time to succeed and don’t let a few missed connections get you down. A positive and persistent attitude will help you continue to develop your network and individual connections over time.

Improve Communication

Send out messages and focus on becoming a more skilled communicator. Email and other more personal communication channels can help to boost the connection level with your network contacts. Keep your communications short, friendly, and goal-oriented.

Approach with No Expectations

Don’t hang too much on any one contact, meeting, or digital conversation. Going in with no expectations has two benefits. The first is that you can’t be let down if things are not exactly what you envisioned. The second is your ability to bring zero stress to every networking encounter, creating an enjoyable and opportunity-ready vibe when you connect with others.

Focus on Beneficial Connections

Focus on people who can help you, and are willing to engage in mutual benefit. People who always ask but never give may not be beneficial to you, while those who are always willing to listen and share what they can are far more likely to be valuable contacts now or some time in the future.

Work On Your Elevator Pitch

Figure out how to present yourself and your goals in a few short sentences. A 30-second “elevator pitch” can be a great way to break the ice and make a connection at an in-person event or as part of your digital outreach strategy. Perfect your friendly yet goal-oriented approach so that new network connections quickly understand what you’re about and the value you can provide as a contact in their network.

Remember, we are all networking all the time.

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How to Keep Improving

Of course, once you’ve started your network, you always have room for improvement. Someone who is a capable networker can become a master at networking over a few years of professional experience and personal development. Hubspot shares the following useful ways to improve your networking skills and results.

Be Proactively Helpful

Networking is about mutual benefit. If you want people to be useful to you in the future, be useful to them today. Find ways to be helpful. Listen to their goals and seek ways to support them, provide resources, or make use of yourself as a connection to help them along their paths. 

Always Be Networking

Never stop networking. Every meeting with other professionals is a chance to make a connection, no matter how brief. Coworkers, clients, business partners, and fellow attendees at industry events; you never know when you’ll meet your next truly amazing contact.

Be Authentically Yourself

Be genuine. Be your open, honest self and be frank about your personal goals. In a world where everyone has an angle, being upfront and honest can help you make a good first impression and jump straight into making friends with your new contacts without a fictionalized version of yourself getting in the way.

Be Selective of Your Inner Circle

Network far and wide, but tailor your inner circle. It’s okay to have a few valuable friends in your network and dozens, hundreds, or even thousands in your outer circles. Your inner circle are people you can rely on, and who can rely on you. Your outer circle are people that are casually friendly, with whom you might eventually trade a few professional favors.

Attend Events and Talk to Panel Moderators

If you’re looking for reccomendations and ice-breakers, talk to panel moderators when you attend professional events. Then you can open the conversation with someone new by mentioning that the moderator suggested that you speak.

See the Potential in Weak Connections

A large network of weak connections can be powerful. Not every new contact needs to be your new best friend. In fact, most of them won’t. And what starts as a weak connection might suddenly strengthen in the future, when you connect again at a future date.

End Conversations Gracefully

Lastly, become that awesome person who can end a conversation with grace. Forget saying “goodbye” a million times or ghosting when you get anxious. Practice the art of wrapping up a conversation, wishing the other person well, and/or excusing yourself with aplomb so that no conversation goes on longer than it should. This will end each encounter on a positive and refreshing note, so that others will feel good about connecting with you again.

LEARN 4 WAYS TO USE AN LMS, & MORE HERE

Learning Management: Learn Networking as a Team

Empower your team with these skills as well. A learning management system can help. isolved’s Learning Management System (LMS), offered by Platinum Group provides a modern learning experience for your employees that is flexible, social, and custom designed for your business to drive maximum employee performance and engagement.

ABOUT PLATINUM GROUP

Platinum Group is a human capital management resource with solutions to help you streamline operations, so you’ll have time to manage your business. For more information about Platinum Group, or to schedule a demo of isolved, please visit our website.

Tags: Learning Management System Networking Skills future-focussed cognitive flexibility

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Julie Miles

Julie Miles

Julie’s passion is to act as a liaison between the Platinum team, their wonderful clients, and the community, striving to tell their stories and make connections.

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