Social Skills: Networking

networking event

Networking, or forming professional relationships with people, is an important part of any job. Even if someone’s job doesn’t require them to work directly with customers, it never hurts to meet other people in the industry or profession. There are many benefits to networking, including the receiving and sharing of ideas, learning about new opportunities, increasing business, getting advice from other professionals, surrounding yourself with other motivated people in the field, and even making new friends.

There are always plenty of networking opportunities in the community. However, you don’t have to be at a networking event in order to network. Any time you talk to someone about your job or the business you work for, you open up a new networking opportunity. As an education professional, you are probably already aware of these things. However, your students probably don’t realize how important networking can be. In this post, we discuss several ways for your students to increase their networking skills.

tailgating

Have an “elevator speech.” An elevator speech is a short description of what one does for a living and the benefits the company they work for provide. The reason it’s called an elevator speech is because it should be short enough that it can be said in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator. It’s basically a quick commercial about an individual and their business or employer.

An elevator speech should include information about the person’s skills, what they have to offer, and what they are looking for in a professional relationship. Depending on where someone is in their career, they could be looking for a new job, new customers, or even a mentor. Having the elevator speech memorized allows them to quickly and easily describe to people what they do. An elevator speech is especially important for people that are just starting out in the professional world. Your students need to be able to clearly and confidently explain who they are and what they can offer to prospective employers.

Ask Questions

asking questions

When networking, it’s helpful to have questions prepared for people ahead of time. Asking someone a question is a great way to start a conversation. Stick to questions that anyone can answer, no matter what they do for a living. Here are a few examples of good questions to ask:

  • What do you do for a living?
  • What is your biggest challenge in your job?
  • How do you go about getting new customers?
  • How did you get started in your career?

Remember Names

business card exchange

An important part of networking, and probably one of the most difficult, is remembering the names of people. Remembering names is important because it shows others that the connection being made is valued. It can be tricky to remember the name of connections but there are various techniques that can help. Asking for the person’s business card and later, writing down some notes about them is a good place to start. Everyone needs to figure out what system works best for them. There are few things more embarrassing than seeing someone you met previously and not knowing their name.

Recognize Opportunities

cafe networking

New connections can be made anywhere. Sporting events, school events, and even restaurants are great places to meet new people. Being able to introduce oneself in any situation is the key to good networking. After a conversation gets started it’s appropriate to talk about what one does and figure out if the other person can help you in some way. Even if they can’t help now, they might know someone who can, or may be able to help sometime in the future.

In order for networking to work, it needs to go both ways. That means you can’t expect people to help you with your career and not return the favor. Never pass up an opportunity to help others, whether by sending business their way or giving them advice. People will remember your kindness and will likely return the favor.

Be Open-Minded

chance meeting

Success is all about who you know. The more people you know, the more successful you will be. With networking, it’s best to be open-minded and include everyone. Don’t assume that if people are not in a management position that they can’t help you. Never ignore someone just because you think they can’t help you achieve your networking goals. Meeting new people is never a waste of time, so always make the best of networking opportunities. A big part of this is being kind and courteous to others. Manners and soft skills go a long way!

We hope you found these tips on networking to be helpful. Helping your students become proficient at networking is one way to help them be successful. If they can acquire these skills before they leave school they will be well prepared for the “real world”. If you want to learn more about our Workplace Readiness program, click the free trail link below.

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About the Author:

Stefan is a senior developer at The Conover Company. He has experience researching and writing online courses for assessing and teaching Social-Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills. He and his wife currently live in Oregon.

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