If you’re not networking, you’re not growing your career. It’s that simple. Networking is your career lifeblood—whether you work for someone else or are an entrepreneur. You can have the best skills or concept in the world, but if you aren’t making new connections and expanding your reach, your efforts are going to stagnate pretty quickly. So here are six critical tips and methods to help you improve your networking skills in the New Year.
1. Become a cross-platform master
Long gone are the days when you can simply communicate by speaking with people. In addition to phone calls, today’s field of communication includes emails, texts, video chats, social media posts, and more. So if you want to network effectively, you need to become an expert at all forms of communication, not just chatting over lunch or drinks. Get comfortable communicating via email, text, Zoom, Skype, Instagram, and more. Doing so will play help your networking success.
Listening is perhaps the most important networking skill of all of them. If you aren’t a good listener, you’re not a good communicator. Furthermore, most people don’t really want to hear what you have to say unless you’re making time to hear what they have to say in turn. It’s important to listen actively. Respond to what people tell you with some evidence that you’ve heard and comprehended their message.
Don’t just go on talking about yourself and your endeavors, even if you’re trying to pitch. A healthy pitch or connection is 50 percent you and 50 percent them. Active listening always makes you appear more thoughtful, empathetic, and invested in those people surrounding you, which is critical to successful networking.
3. Be positive
A positive attitude is an extremely critical networking skill. Friendly people draw everyone else to them, and no one likes a negative individual. Furthermore, positivity and confidence go hand in hand. People are more likely to have confidence in your business endeavors (especially investors) if you appear happy and upbeat and optimistic about your market potential.
Become a master of the spin, turning bad situations to your favor or finding a positive light in which to evaluate a situation. If people see you respond to the negative with a positive, upbeat outlook, they’ll have confidence in your skills and will also be more likely to want to work with you. Positivity will not only make you more likable but will also make you more memorable.
4. Use humor
Humor goes hand in hand with positivity. By that we mean it makes you more likable and memorable. That said, a good sense of humor is a little harder to cultivate than positivity. Humor is also dependent on the situation and the individual(s) with which you’re conversing, so there’s no simple recipe for success here.
However, humor is something everyone should work on if they want to improve their networking. Humor is always humanizing, and it helps you bring the people around you together on common ground. Like positivity, a bit of humor can also defuse bad situations and tension and set things back on track. Humorous people are also typically thought of as more approachable. Just remember, there’s a fine line between using the right amount of humor and coming off as unprofessional or boorish. Keep your humor clean and relatable, but don’t go overboard. No one wants to work with Todd Packer from The Office.
5. Attend networking events
This might come off as obvious, but a great way to improve your networking skills is to attend networking events—even virtual ones, which are becoming more the norm than the exception. This allows you to practice all your skills regularly in a non-stress setting. Keep your focus on building a genuine connection with the people you meet and keep things as organic as possible. Ask questions to show people you’re actually interested in getting to know them, listen closely to the answers they give, and respond in a way that makes them aware you legitimately paid attention. Make eye contact, and use body language that suits the situation.
Above all, remember that quality matters over quantity. You don’t need to know 1,000 people if you made a strong connection with 10 people who are in a position you can benefit from. Focus on the quality of the relationships you’re having rather than the quantity.
6. Interview people
This may be one of the fastest ways to grow your connections—as long as you do it strategically and have a plan in mind. Almost anyone is open to an interview, if you pitch it well and have a good idea. You could format the interview in the context of a blog, book, research paper, podcast, or something else—It doesn’t really matter, as long as you can come up with an excuse to interview people.
Almost anyone can market themselves as a journalist if they operate a single blog. Simply use interviewing as a way to reach out to people and make valuable connections. The folks you’re interviewing are almost always people who have done something right (hence why they’re successful), so there’s always something you can learn, and further down the line they might just be able to give you a helping hand. And this is another way in which positivity and humor come into play. If you’re an upbeat, funny interviewer, your subjects are going to remember you.
Eric Porat is a successful online entrepreneur, investor, and digital marketer with over 15 years of experience in buying and selling websites.