Improve Your Business Networking Skills

Business networking is a key skill for jobseekers to master as an important part of their job search campaign. Barry Zweibel, a certified business and personal life coach, has written an informative article to help you improve your professional networking skills.

Networking is a great way to expand the world you live in. And whether you’re talking about formal networking events, continuing education classes, social gatherings or other functions, they’re all prime opportunities to meet new people and/or further relations with those you would like to know better. But, in order to do that, you must fight the temptation to just ‘hang out’ with the people you already know. To accomplish that, you must first set your intentions and then have a workable game plan to implement.

What's wrong with the people I already like? Share on X

Nothing! And so often it’s the case that our busy lives prevent us from spending time with those people. So, when we finally do see them again – no matter what the setting – we naturally gravitate to them. What ultimately happens, though, is that you don’t ‘catch up’ as much as you’d like AND you miss the opportunity to meet some of the other people around you. It becomes a classic lose/lose scenario.

What can you do instead? Say your hellos, chat for a few quick minutes and then make plans to get together at some other time (maybe even later that night) to REALLY catch up. The message is, “Yes, I really want to spend more time with you, but not right now – I want to network a bit, first.” If someone said that to you would you begrudge them? My guess is more likely than not, you’d be impressed.

But I'm not good at talking to strangers! Share on X

The dictionary defines a stranger as “one who is neither a friend nor an acquaintance.” That sounds kind of benign actually. No reference whatsoever to scary monsters or worst-case scenarios! We give such power to strangers – people we don’t even know yet.

So if you’re someone who doesn’t like to network because it involves the wildcard of talking with people you don’t already know, consider that somewhere in that sea of strangers is probably a friend waiting to meet you for the very first time. And who couldn’t use another friend?! Besides once you talk with someone for a while, they’re no longer strangers, so by simply interacting with them, you can systematically eliminate the strangers from any room you’re in. You’ve got power!

Okay I'm ready. Now what do I do? Share on X

First thing is to remember that you DO have the power. Remember that. Really! And here are some easy-to-implement, no-nonsense steps to help you move forward:

Establish a Stretch Goal – one that you can meet but you have to really try to do so – for how many new people you want meet: 

  • Know that a great way to network is to simply introduce yourself to anyone who is standing alone;
  • Engage them by being curious about them – ask something about who they are, what they do, who they work for, who they know, what they hate about these types of parties, etc.;
  • Ask for business cards so that (a) you can remember their names, (b) you have a record of who you talked to and how to reach them, and (c) you can use the back of the card to write down what you want to remember and what might be a relevant next step to take.

Establish a separate Stretch Goal to grow relationships with those you already know: 

  • What new information do you want to share with them? Think creatively;
  • What specific questions would you like to ask them? Get interested and let the conversation flow;
  • Decide on a good next step for both of you (a meet, a meal, a phone call, etc.);
  • Give the people you talk with your undivided attention. Get engaged by asking questions you don’t already know the answers to!

Remember these other tips and tricks: 

  • When the conversation lulls, move on – “Excuse me, there’s someone I want to meet (that person standing alone over there),” is a perfectly acceptable thing to say. Smile and then walk away;
  • When you don’t know what else to do, check your Stretch Goals and see how you’re doing;
  • If you run into someone you already met and can’t remember their name, simply say “Hello again. Remind me of your name.” Remind them of your name;
  • If you find yourself back with someone you didn’t particularly care for, ask if they’ve met anyone especially interesting that you might like to meet. Or point out someone you found interesting. Or both. And then move on;
  • Strangers include new friends you haven’t met yet. So find someone who looks interesting and tell them so.

Remember, networking is always easier when you’re feeling fresh. So don’t hold off on ‘hanging’ with friends until the very end. And lastly, have fun. Enthusiasm is contagious and if you play your cards right, you’ll soon be the one that everyone else wants to meet!

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