Networking is an important skill to master for your career development. If you’re looking for some tips to boost your confidence and connections, Jenna Bunnell of Dialpad offers these helpful hints for you.
Networking is an essential skill. By interacting with people from common professional circles, you develop mutually beneficial ties and ultimately build a strong professional network to help out at every stage of your career. Industry connections allow you to leverage the learnings of others, work effectively with your coworkers, act on trends early, and find employment opportunities more easily.
With so many different ways to network today, finding this circle of supporters can be difficult — where to start? Where older advice may focus on public speaking, office relationships, and conferences, these same tips may not always ring true for professionals today. Making and maintaining connections while working remotely requires similar skills but with some adjustments.
As working from home becomes increasingly common, channels of communication can begin to break down. This is why being accessible to other employees, clients, and suppliers is non-negotiable.
On an individual level, this contact with other people is equally essential, both for your career development and for your own well-being. Since humans are social by nature, it’s easy to forget that socializing is still a skill like any other. With the tips in this article, you can hone your networking skills — even while working from home.
Top 6 Networking Skills to Work On
You don’t have to be the loudest person in the room (physical or virtual), but it is important to be self-assured and positive about your own abilities when entering social situations with the intent to make professional connections.
Whether confidence comes naturally to you or not, preparation makes all the difference. Prior to meeting with people, practice positive affirmations and think about topics you might cover and what you want to say. Having an elevator pitch version of who you are and what you’re working on might be a way in.
It is often easier to appear confident when you have made an effort with your appearance. Even if you are only joining a video call, things like washing your hair and changing into work-appropriate clothes can help you feel like and come across as a competent professional.
It goes without saying that communication skills are essential. But what exactly does this mean in the context of online networking? ‘Communication’ is defined as the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. Being able to exchange ideas in a clear, polite, and friendly manner will endear you to your peers and set you up for success.
Familiarize yourself with the conventions and expectations of asynchronous communication, especially if you are working remotely. Additionally, call upon your written communication skills to manage relationships on social media and professional networking sites.
For effective communication, listening is just as important as speaking (if not more so). Active listening means paying attention to the other person, not simply waiting for your turn to talk. Where possible, try to smile, make eye contact, and demonstrate that the speaker has your full attention. By slowing down and taking everything in, you can then respond thoughtfully and demonstrate your respect for the person’s opinions and expertise.
This doesn’t only apply to conversations about work. Paying attention to people’s unrelated stories and insights demonstrates that you don’t just see them as an opportunity but also recognize them as a human.
The Ability to Put Others First
If your only goal in networking is to get ahead, then you’re unlikely to do so. As you interact with people, try to think about how you can help them, rather than vice versa. For example, if you interact with someone looking for call center management tips, you may be able to put them in touch with another member of your circle who has expertise in that area. Or, you may know something about one of their hobbies or be able to suggest great service providers in their area.
Doing a favor is a great way to deepen a connection with someone. But how do you know when they need help? One way is to utilize multiple channels of communication. If you follow someone’s social media, you may be among the first to know if they have a problem that they would appreciate help with. Additionally, you may stumble upon shared interests, mutual friends and connections, or interesting cross-overs in your personal and professional lives.
If you focus first on how you can help others, they, in turn, will think favorably about you when it’s time to make decisions or when recommending you to others.
Asking for Help
Equally, knowing how and when to reach out to others is a valuable skill. It’s inevitable that you’ll need help from your network at some point. Don’t overthink it — it’s normal to collaborate and rely on others.
That said, be courteous. Pretending to catch up with someone socially, only to sneak in your original request, is a bad look. It seems like you only view this person as an accessory to your career. Instead, it’s best to be direct. Make your request, and then continue with the conversation once your intentions are in the open.
Even if you made a great impression with someone in your first interaction, it might diminish the achievement if you don’t make an effort and send a follow-up. Networking is about solidifying connections worth pursuing, not just making lots of fresh connections that don’t go anywhere.
Keep your follow-up message short, succinct, and tailored to the recipient as an individual. Some people may prefer other modes of communication, but email is often the safest way to go. While email marketing services can help you with messaging services for your business, when it comes to fostering connections between colleagues, you should opt for a personal touch.
Working on these networking skills will help you make professional connections that are both meaningful and useful in amping up your career. Whether you work in a busy office or are more of a digital nomad, a strong network of supporters and contacts will help you make a name for yourself and progress in your industry. Remember to uplift others as you go along, and they will do the same for you.
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, contact center software and AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. Jenna has also written for other domains such as Promo and Codemotion.
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