Networking is critical for career advancement, no matter where you are in your professional life.
A Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis study found that networking helps you land jobs faster, produces higher-quality job offers, and increases employee satisfaction. What’s not to love?
Here are 8 essential business networking skills you can implement today to accelerate your professional networking efforts.
Skill 1: Active Listening
Active listening is the basis of all strong communication, making it an essential professional networking skill.
Active listening means dedicating your full attention to what is being said by the other person with the sole objective of understanding what they’re saying. Often, we listen only to figure out how we can contribute to a conversation. Unfortunately, that can cause us to miss the real message.
Since networking is all about learning from and helping other people, active listening is critical to its success.
Implement this business networking skill by doing the following:
- Listen without judgment.
- Never interrupt the speaker, and wait to talk next in case they want to add more. Silence can be uncomfortable, but it’s a powerful tool.
- Repeat what you’ve heard to check your understanding.
- Ask clarifying questions as needed – just don’t interject them.
- Consider repeating what’s been said in summary so the speaker can correct any misunderstandings.
Take some time to research and practice active listening to see how it transforms your professional networking experience.
Skill 2: A Focus on Genuine Relationships
Many people take a transactional approach to networking, and while that might work in the short term, it’s often perceived poorly and doesn’t grow a network over time.
Shift your mindset and approach networking as a way to make long-term friends rather than gain opportunities. When you get to know people and put their needs first – more on this later – you’d be surprised what organic opportunities arise.
To develop this mindset, stay present during networking conversations. Meet the other party where they’re at without thinking about your future and how they can add to it.
Further, ask questions about people’s personal lives, including their family, friends, and hobbies. Doing so allows you to get to know them holistically, and who knows, perhaps you have more in common than just professionally.
Skill 3: Staying in Touch
One-and-done conversations seldom work for professional networking. Your set of business networking skills should involve regular check-ins with people so you stay top-of-mind.
Regular communication is a significant component of genuine relationships, crucial for building a robust and long-term network.
Skill 4: Asking Smart Questions
Asking smart questions is a critical business networking skill because it shows the other person that you’re listening and that you care. That said, framing questions incorrectly can be offputting – remember, it’s not what you say but how you say it.
To ask smart questions, remember to listen actively and speak with empathy.
For instance, if someone tells you they’re having a tough time dealing with a new boss, consider the following response:
“It must be challenging dealing with this new boss – the relationship between boss and employee has a huge impact on employee satisfaction. (Empathetic, reiterating your understanding of the situation.) Have you let your boss know how you feel? (Genuine question trying to understand the situation without being presumptuous or pushy.)
Notice how the focus is on the other person without passing judgment? Framing questions in this way will help your networking efforts.
Skill 5: Non-Verbal Communication Skills
Your non-verbal communication skills are more essential than you might think. Non-verbal communication – or messages you give off without words – accounts for as much as 93% of a message.
Non-verbal communication includes:
- Body language
- Facial expressions
- Eye contact
- Paralinguistics (tone of voice, loudness, “mhmms”)
- Touch (resting a hand on someone’s shoulder, for instance)
Therefore, you can do the following to boost your non-verbal communication and overall business networking skills:
- Maintain steady eye contact
- Face the person
- Nod or say “uh-huh” (or similar) regularly, but not in a disruptive way
- Use your facial expressions to match the tone of the conversation
With practice, you’ll notice what non-verbal communications work best.
Skill 6: Positive Thinking
Networking – and life – can be fraught with rejections or outcomes you didn’t expect.
Approach networking with a positive mindset; you’ll be better prepared to handle conversations that don’t go as planned, networking events that are a letdown, and anything else professional networking throws your way.
Similarly, framing your approach to situations positively is perceived better by your peers. Those you’re networking with will understand you’re not a defeatist and are ready for new challenges.
Skill 7: Coping Well With Rejection and Constructive Feedback
Putting yourself out there and building business networking skills means you’ll face constructive criticism and feedback; there’s nothing wrong with that. The better you handle these networking aspects, the more successful you’ll be.
Dealing with rejection can’t be taught; you’ll need to learn it through mindset shifts. That said, here are some tips to begin handling rejection and constructive feedback better:
- Journal: writing down your emotions can help you release them faster.
- Do an activity you enjoy to reset your mood.
- Emotionally distance yourself: step out of the situation and try to observe it as a bystander.
- Acceptance: you can feel the negative sting of rejection or criticism, but acceptance involves acknowledging your response, validating it, and moving on. The more you fight negative feelings, the more they rear their heads.
Skill 8: Putting Others First
Putting others first is at the heart of this business networking skills list and professional networking in general. In sum, this involves:
- Actively listening and hearing what people are saying
- Thinking about what you can give the other person while expecting nothing in return
- Asking empathetic questions
- Never passing judgment
- Asking questions about people’s personal lives
- Staying in touch long term
Do all this and watch your professional networking flourish.
Network With an Executive Recruiter
If you’re looking to climb the corporate ladder and want help reaching those senior positions, include an executive recruiter in your network.
Jennings Executive would love to get to know you! We have over two decades of combined experience matching professionals with leading senior- and executive-level positions, helping you build the career of your dreams. Learn more today.
We hope this article helps you build your business networking skills and successfully meet new people.