True professional success comes from collaboration, not just standalone efforts. That’s why networking skills are deemed in the workforce as a critical and powerful subset of soft skills.
However, developing these skills is often misunderstood as simply meeting people to add useful contacts to one’s network. What you want is to bring strong, strategic, and genuine relationships into your professional network. Well, the good news is: to achieve that, all you need is practice while applying a few little changes to your attitude and mindset when connecting with other people.
Practice makes perfect… or at least improvements. Before you can apply these changes in the way you approach networking, you have to increase your opportunities for consciously building new relationships and strengthening the ones you already have.
This is not exclusive to networking events, like conferences or online meet-ups. Networking skills should develop naturally by diversifying your relationships beyond your daily business communication, interactions with stakeholders, and people within your industry. You also should put these skills to the test with people outside your professional life.
Building up experience and staying updated is critical to any professional. However, a widely underestimated part of that happens when we interact with our network. Having a receptive attitude in any conversation will undoubtedly lead you to learn more about what is going on in the industry through what other people are sharing.
You also need to take active participation in whatever is being discussed. That means asking questions to dig deeper. What’s their take on the latest trends? Where do they spot challenges and opportunities? Knowing that other people have a lot to bring to the table and being open to learning from them is a great way to you build a network of talented people.
To become a trustworthy professional, you don’t need to flaunt your skills and background. Still, you do have to learn how to let people know about what makes you unique and highly valuable without randomly enlisting your successes with the risk of coming across as arrogant. This is where storytelling comes in handy.
Storytelling is one of the most effective networking skills you can have. Almost everyone loves to hear compelling stories, especially those they can relate to. Influential people know how to weave trust and reliability in their narration without sounding like they are straight-up selling something.
Collaborative projects with people from other departments, or even companies, to create something with added value is another great opportunity to work on your networking skills. Groups with different knowledge, abilities, and skills can leverage each other’s strengths to achieve unexpected but welcomed results.
Having successful collaborations with people you don’t get to work with every day is a great way to cement your network and reputation. If you don’t stick to just delivering on your end but actually get involved with everyone in the project, these people might want to work with you again or even put in a good word for you in the future.
How to have a successful collaboration
– Share and understand everyone’s goals
– Have mutual respect and trust
– Embrace various styles of communication
– Keep communication channels open at all times
– Have a clear division of responsibilities
Now here’s the most important of these small mindset adjustments you should apply to your networking skills: Do not engage with other people just for the sake of it! Take a meaningful approach to every relationship instead of just looking to increase your business network. Relevant and respectful relationships come first; professional success is a natural result of that.
You have to always keep in mind that networking is not about exchanging business cards. It is about building and fostering mutually beneficial outcomes. With genuine networking, you can build powerful alliances and expand your professional reach.
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