You know that networking is in your best interest and that it can open up many doors, be them professional, social, or personal.
...but networking is much easier said than done.
Unless you possess the right networking skills, you’ll have difficulty making personal or professional connections, as well as using them to advance your career.
Wondering what those skills might be (and how you can learn them)? That’s just what we’ll cover in this article!
Let’s dive right in!
11+ Top Networking Skills
Networking involves interacting with people (who might even be strangers, or acquaintances) from common professional and social circles to build commonly beneficial ties.
To get better at networking, though, you’ll need to develop the right networking skills.
So, let’s go over the top networking skills you MUST have in 2023:
#1. Active Listening
Active listening is more than just hearing.
The act involves paying uttermost attention to what the speaker is saying, following up with clarifying questions where relevant and necessary, and making sure you got the essence of the conversation.
Here’s why the skill of active listening is essential for networking:
Imagine, for example, you’re at a networking event having a conversation with a job recruiter.
If you keep scanning the room, looking down at your phone, and just giving the recruiter the occasional nod to make them
as if you’re listening, they’re not very likely to talk to you about prospective job positions. And on the off-chance they don’t feel offended by you pretending to be listening and do speak about job opportunities, you probably won’t be paying attention!
#2. Communication Skills
Communication is, if you ask us, the most important networking skill.
You can be funny, insightful, skillful, and intelligent, and it would all be in vain if you can’t effectively communicate with people.
For this reason, when you’re networking, be mindful of the ways you convey, interact with others, and even tackle issues and discussions that may come up during the conversation.
This includes your tone of voice, the language you use, and even your urgency to speak over others. Those are all elements that can make or break your networking.
#3. Non-verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication includes every message you transmit that doesn’t include words and it accounts for up to 93% of any verbal message.
This means your facial expressions, your body language and stance, and even your position towards your co-speaker.
As such, non-verbal communication is an essential networking skill.
Think about it.
Who is more likely to strike up a conversation at a networking event? Someone with hunched shoulders and eyes locked on their phone screen, or a social butterfly that radiates confidence and positivity?
Yeap, we vote for number 2 as well.
#4. Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills and communication skills are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two.
In a nutshell, interpersonal skills encompass your ability to get along and understand other people. This may oftentimes mean being open to subtle hints, or “reading” the situation in a certain social setting.
Say, for example, that you’re at a party and an interesting-looking someone is smiling directly at you. This is 99% a sign that they are open to talking, but they might be too shy to start the conversation.
Research shows that humor is the key to success at work, because it makes people enjoy interacting with you, puts them at ease, and helps them build trust, among other things.
Well, the same thing applies to networking!
In addition to referring to the quality of being amusing, humor is also a mood and state of mind.
This means that humor is much more than just making people laugh—it is, in large part, about being positive and transmitting that to those around you. As such, humor is an inseparable part of networking skills.
By being able to bring a smile to people’s faces you can rest assured you’ll get to exchange some business cards (or phone numbers).
Aretha Franklin said it: R-E-S-P-E-C-T!
Yeap, respect—one of the most fundamental networking skills.
Did it ever happen when you were younger to get scolded for talking over someone or chewing your food with your mouth open?
Well, it’s even worse if you’re a disrespectful adult at a networking event.
Imagine, for example, getting lucky enough to talk to a recruiter from one of your target law firms and you make a bad expression by constantly interrupting them or asking them to repeat themselves because you weren’t paying attention.
Now that wouldn’t make the best impression, would it?
Plus, keep in mind that respectful and polite people tend to thrive at networking, as they are easy to get along with, understanding, and approachable.
If you’re going to go to a place full of strangers or acquaintances with the goal of creating professional and social ties, then you definitely need confidence!
As a skill, confidence defines how sure you are about what you say, what you do (or plan on doing), and your decisions.
Now, if you’re not naturally confident, practice your confidence by doing some of the following:
- Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
- Speak in a friendly tone.
- Prepare something to discuss in advance so that you don’t stumble on your words. Of course, this depends on the intention of your networking (e.g.if you’re going to talk to a specific recruiter, you’ll want to ask them about the company, workplace environment, etc.)
Friendliness is another essential networking skill on our list.
The quality involves being kind, helpful, or affectionate—without necessarily being close to the other person. Gestures such as smiling, waving, or introducing yourself to people are typical shows of friendliness and will bring people around you like moths to a flame.
Generally, friendliness encourages others to be less guarded or reactive with you. That said, you shouldn’t overdo it either.
Sometimes, overly kind or helpful people come off as suspicious or annoying—which is a no-no when you’re networking.
#9. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to understand, use, and manage both your and other people’s emotions.
When it comes to networking, having emotional intelligence greatly matters because (just like anything else that involves people), the process is also emotional.
Imagine, for example, having a 10-minute conversation with a recruiter. They might not verbally say anything, but you can tell by their willingness to give you their card, or their proposition to follow up with an email, that you made an impression.
Positivity is more than just a character trait: it’s an attitude and a mindset.
If you go networking with a positive mindset, you won’t be discouraged in case a conversation with a potential future professional contact doesn’t go as planned, or if the team-building event with your new colleagues doesn’t go exactly how you were hoping.
Moreover, a positive attitude usually comes paired with optimism. Networking-wise, this makes it easier for people to approach you and maybe even build constructive relations.
#11. Public Speaking
It can happen that the spotlight falls on you amid a group of people while networking.
What then? Public speaking could come to the rescue.
Public speaking skills can make you feel comfortable when you’re addressing a group of people—especially strangers at a networking event.
So, when you’re not addressing such a “tough” audience, practice your public speaking skills when you chat with your friends.
Particularly, pay attention to the way you articulate words, the pace you talk with, and the tone of your voice.
5+ Tips to Get Better at Networking
In case you went through all these networking skills and are now worried you’re not at the top of your game, we got your back!
Below you can find some tips to take your networking game to the next level:
- Dress with intention. When you go networking, consider how you want to be perceived (sharp, intelligent, friendly) and dress accordingly.
- Be aware of your body language. As we said, your body language is your go-to tool to help you look approachable. So, make sure to keep your back straight at all times, to fully face anyone who approaches or talks to you, and to maintain eye contact with your co-speakers.
- Visualize the outcome. If you’re networking with a specific aim in mind (e.g. make professional connections), thinking and visualizing the outcome in advance will help you achieve it.
- Prepare a safety net. It may happen that other attendees don’t approach you right away. Having a safety net in place always helps. This means being prepared to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation.
- Ask open-ended questions. By asking open-ended questions (e.g. “how,” “why,” “what,”) allow the speaker to answer with more words than a dray “yes/no.”
- Have your resume ready. If you’re networking for new career opportunities and you meet a recruiter, you probably want to have a resume on-hand to send them after your meeting. So, make sure to update your resume or write one if you don’t have it so that you’re prepared for all scenarios.
- Follow up. Networking isn’t only about creating, but also about solidifying connections. For the latter to happen, you need to follow up via email or text with the connections you consider worth pursuing.
And that’s a wrap! Before you go and put your skills to practice, let’s go over the main points we covered in the article:
- Networking is to interact with people from common professional and social circles to build two-sided beneficial ties.
- Networking is primarily used in business (as in, professional networking), however, you can also network at a party or other social settings.
- Some of the most important networking skills for 2023 include active listening, communication, confidence, positivity, and public speaking.
- Being aware of your body language, preparing a safety net, and asking open-ended questions are among the most useful tips to improve your networking.