Whether you’re starting your own business, looking to grow within your current company, or seeking other opportunities for personal or financial growth and development, few things are more important than your networking skills.
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Successful networking can put you in connection with the right people for achieving greater growth. Networking skills can even allow you to access opportunities that you might never have enjoyed otherwise.
Still, networking isn’t easy. We recently interviewed Mansour Tawafi, president of Validus, who highlighted skills that all next-level networkers need to succeed. By focusing on these key areas, you can enhance your own networking capabilities.
1. Active Listening Is an Essential Networking Skill
“If you want to connect with people, you have to listen to them,” Tawafi advises.
“Active listening means you give the person you’re speaking with your full attention. You truly pay attention to what they say so you can make relevant comments or questions that lead to a deeper, more genuine conversation. People can tell when you are truly listening to them, and that transforms you into someone that they want to get to know better—to be a lasting part of their own network.”
To improve your active listening abilities, Tawafi recommends focusing on listening to what a person says without interrupting, judging, or trying to plan what you will say next. Cut out distractions like your phone so you can focus on the person in front of you.
Finally, demonstrate that you are focused on the conversation through your body language, such as maintaining eye contact or nodding. These simple acts show that you value the other person’s insights and opinions.
2. Confidence Will Make You a Networking Dynamo
Confidence is another important trait that all successful networkers must develop, in large part because this networking skill helps eliminate the fears that keep people from networking. People fear rejection by strangers—or even meeting new people. Natural shyness can also make it hard to approach potential network contacts.
Despite this, Tawafi says that confidence is a trait that can be learned. “Practicing can greatly improve your confidence as you approach a networking situation,” he explains.
“For example, you can mentally prepare talking points you’d like to discuss while meeting new people so your mind doesn’t go blank at the actual event. Visualize your desired outcome. Think about how you will accomplish your goals and what it will feel like. This can help relieve any nervousness you might feel prior to an event.”
Your confidence (or lack thereof) will be apparent to the people you interact with. Even if you have to somewhat “fake” your confidence, a strong demeanor will help you make a better first impression.
3. Emotional Intelligence Is Another Critical Networking Skill
Emotional intelligence has become an increasingly discussed topic in the business world as more and more organizations focus on what is needed to provide quality leadership.
In a nutshell, emotional intelligence is being able to understand and manage your emotions, while also being able to recognize and effectively respond to the emotions of others. As Tawafi explains, this makes emotional intelligence a vital skill for networking.
“Emotional intelligence includes having the social awareness that is necessary to practice empathy and manage relationships,” he explains. “Success in networking happens when you can demonstrate empathy as you coach and engage with others. When you are better at offering support or resolving conflicts, you can form deeper relationships that stand the test of time.”
4. Positivity Is Fundamental to Successful Networking
Networking is hard. Even if your people skills are exceptional, networking doesn’t always go as planned. This can make it all too easy to get discouraged. “Maintaining a positive attitude is a valuable part of your networking journey,” Tawafi says.
“Trying to stay optimistic and focusing on the positive will help you pick yourself up and try again when things don’t work out. Remember, your attitude is contagious. A positive person is going to attract other positive people around them. These are the kind of people you want to grow your network with, because they have the best momentum.”
Positive self-talk and mindfulness practices like meditation can help networkers mentally reset when they need to recalibrate and refocus on what is going well.
5. Consistency Will Make You a Winner
Finally, the best networkers are remarkably consistent. They understand that their goal isn’t to just add new connections on LinkedIn. Instead, they use their networking skills to develop long-lasting relationships.
“So many people think that networking is just about that initial connection,” Tawafi says.
“But true networking aims to create lasting awareness, to create lasting value for each other. You have to stay in touch. It can be as simple as occasional emails or social media outreach, but you have to continue contact with people you network with so those connections don’t go to waste. By continuing to make the effort, you’ll build stronger relationships that pay bigger dividends in the long run.”
In a time when only 48% of professionals say they keep in touch with others in their network, a networker’s consistency could be what helps them stand out from the crowd.
Make the Most of Your Networking Opportunities
The right connections can help you learn how to better manage your money, help you land your dream job, and empower you to accomplish other goals. As you focus on fostering genuine connections with others using these skills, you will be able to gradually build a network that helps you advance your personal and professional goals. And you’ll be able to return the favor and help others on their way as well.
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