Evaluating Your Skills for Effective Networking with Networking Tips That Actually Work
Before you attend your first networking function or a professional conference, it’s a good idea and I would say it’s mandatory that you realistically evaluate the skills you have and the skills you need.
Doing this evaluation can help you to create a roadmap that will help guide your networking efforts.
The Skills You Have to Offer
The main idea behind effective networking is that you pay it forward by offering to help others. First, you need to consider your skill set and what you can offer to those you meet. What are the unique abilities that you can provide?
Tip: However don’t be too eager to just jump in and start telling people how you can help them, but more on that a little later in this training.
It’s often hard to recognize these skills by yourself. Few people have an objective understanding of their natural strengths and unique skills. It’s much easier to seek the opinions of others that you trust to be upfront and honest about your strengths and skills. How do you help others in your work or daily life? How have you helped others in the past? What have been your most outstanding achievements? These types of things can assist in revealing your true strengths.
Tip: All students of this training should have completed Strengths Finder 2.0 and have your results so you can use that as a guide primarily.
Your Networking Skills
There is a whole range of people skills needed in order to network effectively. It helps if you’re direct, honest, and outgoing. Those skills will help you find and make a connection with virtually anyone. The following short list of networking skills and questions to ask and answer will help when you’re working a room.
Good networking skills include:
- The ability to approach others – How hard is it for you to strike up a conversation with strangers or introduce yourself?
- Non-verbal communication – This includes eye contact and even how you position your body. How’s your posture? What about your facial expressions? Do they match what you’re saying verbally?
- Conversation skills – Do you know when to interject your thoughts into a conversation? Maintaining a balance between talking and listening, and keeping the conversation going is key to a productive and mutually enjoyable conversation.
- Listening – Listening is one of the most important skills in a networking situation. It’s important that you to pay attention to what others are saying in order to find commonalities. In addition it’s just rude to be disengaged from a conversation just waiting to pounce on something you can respond to for whatever it is you’re offering.
Now for my Social Media peeps… you know who you are. Stop tweeting when you’re talking to and meeting new people. Unless you’re asking for the persons Twitter handle leave your phone in your pocket or purse. Even when you are about to add them to Twitter and say something like “Let me add you on Twitter so we can keep in touch “, then put your phone away unless there’s an app or something you’re showing them that contributes to the conversation.
- Self-confidence – You need to be able to communicate to others your expertise, knowledge, skills, and other benefits you offer them so don’t be ashamed to toot your own horn a little bit. Be tasteful but communicate with pride about your skills.
- Positivity – A big smile, plenty of enthusiasm and a positive feeling. It’s really hard for other to not be inspired and to react to you in kind when you’re positive and full of energy.
Have you ever noticed some people at networking events and conferences are just negative and try to point our negative situations in the room. For instance I attended an event recently were the wait staff was a bit rude. Most people ignored it and the host finally complained to management about the situation, which was quickly resolved. However there were more than a few people that chose to focus on the wait staff situation. They spent more time on that but never actually made any new connections other than the few people they were hanging around.
I understand it’s pretty easy to group together with people once you have something in common but I urge you work the room and try to talk with at least two new people for any events you attend. With conferences I would say try and make at least five meaningful connections. I cover this more in the next section.
Skills to Get You to Your Goals
There is another skill set that you may want to consider as you’re building your network – the skills you need to achieve your goals. Rather than offering up their skills to help you, your contacts may help you develop your skills through interacting with them. You may realize new skills or improve current skills you need to reach your goals just by connecting and conversing with your new relationships.
For example, if you’re networking in order to get a better job, you may need to acquire the skills needed to land that job. Say you’ve done the LinkedIn research (if this was an online networking connection) and connected with a hiring manager and add him or her to your network. They may be able to teach you which skills you need to work on in order to get hired.
Be Self-Aware – It worked for Skynet (Google It)
The point of evaluating these skills is to understand your strengths. I don’t focus on fixing weaknesses in this networking class. You already know what you don’t do well so our focus is on your positives. If you’re good at finding commonalities with others use that skill. If you’re good at approaching strangers, make it a point to approach at least three new people at each event and if you’re following the Networking Check list for your online networking then reaching out daily should be in your plan.
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- Outline the skills you have to offer
- Understand the skills you’re seeking to gain
- Set a personal goal for your next event that’s related to this training
Links Mentioned in this Episode:
State of Digital Marketing Conference: http://www.umsldigitalconference.com/
Use #umsldigital for the hashtag day of the event and just to say hello.
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