How to Improve Your Soft Networking Skills

By: Debra Wheatman

Debra WheatmanDebra Wheatman, CPRW, CPCC is president of Careers Done Write, a premier career-services provider focused on developing highly personalized career roadmaps for senior leaders and executives across all verticals and industries. Debra may be contacted directly at debra@careersdonewrite.com. Visit her site at: careersdonewrite.com. Follow Debra on Twitter.

Becoming an effective networker takes continuous practice in live situations. Indeed, “simulating,” social and professional networking situations can be quite difficult and for very busy people, a simple waste of time. However, refining your soft networking skills (positive engagement, empathy, and genuine curiosity) can be improved in a risk-free environment if you are able to invest the time to be an active learner and are determined to form stronger connections with new people. Here are three steps you can take right away.

  1. Read every day – anything and all topics. Being a good conversationalist starts with having something interesting to talk about. One way to fill awkward silences when first meeting someone new is to raise a topic in the news or an interesting story or book you happen to have read or are currently reading. Dedicate at least an hour a day to scouring the news and reading up on topics that interest you.
  2. Practice your introduction & elevator pitch. Not everyone can have a naturally dynamic and engaging personality. Everyone can, learn how introduce oneself earnestly and with confidence. Smile when extending your hand to meet a new contact, speak clearly and with conviction that you are pleased to meet the person. Your air of confidence will communicate the appropriate amount of seriousness to the person with whom you are networking. Moreover, be able to explain who you are, what you do, and where you come/where you want to go in one minute or less (your elevator pitch).
  3. Self-deprecation is an icebreaker. Finding humor in yourself is a great way to break the ice with new people. It shows that you are self-aware, able to engage in light conversation in the interest of forming an amiable connection. This is perhaps the hardest soft skill to acquire for individuals who are reserved and shy. Being able to find and apply humor to a discussion has a great disarming effect and can lead to good connections.

Of course, these skills are best used in live, one-on-one, and one-to-many situations but can also be directly applied to how to approach video interviews. Empathy and having real interest in others are the marks of good networkers who make it their business to find out as much as possible about the other person. Over time, you too can be just as good.

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