The Art of Networking by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

As a business professional, you have no doubt mastered many skills. But, if you haven’t mastered the art of networking, you are leaving money on the table, and missing out on meeting some great people. Here are some simple ways to help you improve your networking skills.

  1. Stop thinking of networking as an event. Many towns hold networking luncheons and happy hours to help business people connect. There is certainly nothing wrong with attending these events, but if this is the only time you network, you won’t get very far. Networking should not be something you schedule time for, it should be something that is part of every activity you undertake. Networking should be a routine part of your everyday interaction at work, at personal events and in your community.
  1. Learn where to sit in a group. When you attend an event, place yourself at the center of the activity. Be certain you are in a position to have multiple conversations without ever leaving your seat. If you are positioned properly, you can meet more people, and you can continue interacting even if the first conversation doesn’t really materialize.
  1. Don’t overthink it. Many people worry about striking up conversations with others because they are afraid they won’t have anything to talk about. Be genuine and use the situation and surroundings to help guide the conversation. Before you know it, you will lose your fear of talking to others.
  1. Don’t have an agenda. Don’t go into networking with the mindset that you have to get something out of the event. When you network with an end goal in mind, you may wind up disappointed, or you may wind up coming off as desperate to those you talk to. Talk with people for the sake of learning more about them. When you do this, opportunities will present themselves over time. Don’t expect an immediate outcome from every conversation.
  1. Relax and be natural. When you stop thinking of networking as an event with a required outcome, you will automatically relax and be more appealing to others. You’ll also have more fun, which will make you more interested in continuing to network.

Networking takes time, but the results can be tremendous. Over time you will see your business grow, you will make new friends and you will learn more than you ever imagined about your community.