Networking skills are useful in nearly every job. Networking helps you establish lasting relationships, stay current on the job market, and help others with professional or personal issues. By understanding the skills you need to build healthy relationships, you can develop them and expand your network. In this article, we define networking skills, provide examples, discuss how to develop networking skills, and explain ways to showcase them.
Your professional network refers to contacts you develop, grow, and stay connected with throughout your career. Essential skills you need to build and maintain relationships include:
Communication is the process of giving and receiving information. When networking, effective verbal communication helps you use the right words for the receiver to understand your message and speak in a tone that encourages a response. For example, when networking with a professional in your field, you may ask,
„Do you think your career path is like most others in your position?“
Written communication is valuable when building relationships with people on social media or professional networking websites. For example, you can use your written communication skills to craft an engaging message to someone who you’d like to be your mentor.
Active listening is the ability to focus on a speaker and their message to respond thoughtfully. It is an important networking skill because it validates the core values of others and shows respect. Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, smiling and nodding your head, and using other nonverbal cues to show the speaker has your attention. You can use techniques such as repeating or rephrasing what the speaker has just said to show you’ve understood their message. Focusing completely on the speaker also helps you ask follow-up questions and move conversations forward.
Social skills are qualities that enable you to interact with others. These skills relate to your physical appearance, friendliness, and gestures. Showing excellent social skills can help you build better relationships because people typically network with contacts they enjoy interacting with on a personal level.
Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s emotions and state of mind. It is important for networking because it makes others want to share their experiences and emotions with you. Be more empathetic by validating the contact’s perspectives, asking questions relating to the situation, and approaching situations from the person’s viewpoint.
Humour can include a lighthearted remark or joke. Having a positive attitude and using humour appropriately can help to ease tension and make people comfortable talking with you. For example, you may use a funny picture when messaging a friend. Knowing how to use humour can also make you more likable and discussions memorable.
Follow these steps to develop your ability to network with others:
Create goals to help you navigate the networking process and ensure you’re using your time effectively. Start by finding out what skill you want to develop and what you hope to accomplish by networking with others. For example, you might be interested in developing your active listening skills or enhancing your industry knowledge through networking events.
Look for people who can support you in reaching your networking goals and developing your skills. Have a 30- to 60-second elevator pitch ready to improve your ability to convey ideas and concepts. An elevator pitch is a quick summary of yourself. When delivering one, ensure you highlight your values, what you hope to gain from the relationship, and how connecting with you would benefit the other person.
A friend, family member, mentor, or career coach can help evaluate your networking skills. Have them review your words and actions, and note the feedback they provide. Asking someone to provide constructive criticism can help you identify aspects you missed when performing self-assessments. For example, a friend might reveal a better approach to showing empathy or starting conversations with an industry professional.
Practising your networking skills is one of the best ways to improve them. Look for networking events that interest you on search engines and seek to build genuine connections with people you meet. During these events, focus on having balanced conversations. For example, seek to know the person you’re speaking with and share your experiences or emotions with them. Aim to ask a lot of questions and listen actively instead of making the entire conversation about yourself.
Becoming a member of professional organizations provides a good opportunity to network and develop your skill set. Research organizations that appeal to you and align with your networking goals on search engines. Consider organizations that target where you are in your career and where you aim to be. For example, you may join the Canadian Society of Professional Engineers (CSPE) shortly after completing your undergraduate to improve your ability to connect with other engineers.
Consider using social media to learn how to reach out to potential connections and strengthen your relationship with existing contacts. If you’re starting out, social media can also prepare you for networking events. For example, you may apply similar conversation starters when connecting with an industry professional on social media during networking events. Social media can also help you stay connected with your contacts.
Improve your networking skills by learning good communication habits. Practise maintaining eye contact when speaking to people in your daily life and using simple words to convey your opinions. For example, you may tell a joke to your neighbour to see whether it’s appropriate to use when networking with professionals.
Here are the top ways to emphasize your networking skills:
When preparing your resume, consider using words that convey your ability to build and maintain healthy relationships. For example, writing “business relationships strategy” may be an effective approach. You may include your networking skills on your resume and consider including a proficiency level for each skill. Alternatively, you can describe your networking skills in your resume’s work experience section. For example, you could say you managed client acquisition when describing a previous role.
You can also create a networking resume to emphasize your networking skills. A networking resume is a one-page summary of your professional identity.
Networking resume template
Here’s a template you can use when creating the content of your networking resume:
[Brief description of professional background and what value you can bring to potential employers]
[List of core and networking skills]
[Company], [Job title] ([Start date] – [End date])
[Description of role]
[List of achievements]
[Roles that interest you]
[Description of the type of organization you are seeking]
[Qualities of your ideal employer]
Your cover letter is also another good place to outline your networking skills. You can use it to discuss a few networking qualities to position yourself as a suitable candidate for the role. For example, consider explaining your business development or client relations experience if you have any. If you have a mentor, you could also mention that you applied your networking skills to reach out to them for a mutually beneficial relationship.
Interviews provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your excellent networking skills. If you have an interview in person, maintain eye contact throughout and ask insightful questions to show you researched the company. Listen actively to each question and comment and process them before you answer. Discuss any experience you have building or maintaining client relationship whenever appropriate.
While at work, try to listen carefully to your supervisor and colleagues. Seek to develop a professional relationship with other employees and ask positive questions during conversations. Also, pay attention to your body language and that of the person with whom you’re speaking.