Networking: The Soft Skills Checklist

My #SummitFriends, Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Dorlee Michaeli and Jacqui Yun have all written felicitous posts about networking.

However, when it comes to using the term "networking", I sit "bristling" on the same side of the fence with Jacqui. In How to Network Naturally, Jacqui says that there are:

"Better ways to forge, cultivate and leverage value-add relationships."

Dorlee opens her heart, shares her own experiences and provides you with valuable takeaways on What I Learned the First Month of Job Search Journey, which is all about building meaningful, memorable and possibly, reciprocal connections with people.

Finally, with a title like The Massage Guy and the Jackalope - A Job Search Networking Story, Jackie baits you, then reels you in, releasing you with a smile and three action points. I'm not a fishing enthusiast, so why am I using a fishing analogy? Are you, Jackie?!

What do these three posts have in common? In their own way, they all stress the soft skills of networking. Networking, whether it be for a new career, your business or a charity is so much more than committing to and attending a meeting then madly dashing about, handing out your business cards as if you were handing out candy like a participant in a parade. It is also much more than collecting a stack of business cards, which you will only discard later.

It is not about writing an email that says, "I may have met you at today's event, please consider donating to my ABC cause." Nor is it about talking to a person - and I use that term loosely - all the while scanning the crowd to look for someone "better" to meet. Networking is not a high school dance!

Before your next encounter or event, spend some time reviewing, augmenting and reinforcing your soft skills. You can get better at networking if you remember what your momma taught you! 

 Do you:

  • Mind your manners? 

Hello, I'm _______. | Pleased to meet you. | Thank you for this conversation. | Excuse me. | I look forward to meeting you at _________. | Have you met ________, yet?

These conversational gambits provide the grease to help smooth out rough conversations. It's not enough to just utter empty phrases. Speak from the heart and take a genuine interest in the person in front of you. 

  • Dress appropriately for the event?

Clean, pressed clothing. You don't have to step out of the pages of Vogue, but you can present yourself at your best. Many people pass judgement based upon how you look, so spend some time grooming. Have clean, well-trimmed finger and toe nails (yes, people do look!), check your hair and make-up.

  • Ask questions because you are interested in the person in front of you?

If you are shy, this is a perfect way to deflect the spotlight. Prepare in advance with some standard questions that will get the other person talking.

For how long have you been in business? | How did you get started doing what you do? | Have you always lived/worked here?

Once you are both speaking from the heart, the conversation begins to flow. Nervousness can evaporate because your attention is no longer on how awkward you feel. You are present and in the zone.

  • Stay present?

You'll be memorable if you're not, but not in the way you had hoped. People will remember how you made them feel - ignored or dismissed. In other words, feeling badly about their interaction with you. If you can't stop scanning the room for someone "better" to speak with, you would benefit from learning some stress undressing techniques. You'll learn a whole host of skills, in addition to how to be fully present and engaged in conversation.

  • Follow up?

Here's where manners come into play again. Did someone get some information to you, even though it wasn't related to their business, but because they knew it would help you? Did you acknowledge them for their time and effort?

If you find that you are missing a beat or two in the soft skills dance of networking, you'll benefit from a five-hour, once weekly, personalized training program that will not only undress your stress, but also improve your performance.

You'll see a change in the way you network; other people will feel the difference which will reveal an enriching networking portal through which you both can move with ease.

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9 Replies to “Networking: The Soft Skills Checklist”

  1. Marianna,

    This is such a wonderful post on the important topic of networking (and what it is not). I love how you explained and demonstrated the essence of the authentic relationship involved… hence the necessity for the soft skills you so nicely laid out.

    In fact, I cannot see when the soft skills you laid out would not be appropriate; perhaps they could be considered as “best practices” in the way we interact, communicate with others.

    Both Jacqui’s and Jackie’s posts were terrific illustrations to include. Jacqui’s post provides terrific networking guidance (where to begin and how to develop those important relationships) and Jackie’s post is a lovely example of “accidental” networking, highlighting the importance of being friendly, open and kind to everyone you meet.

    Also many thanks for your kind mention!

    Warmly,
    Dorlee

    1. Hi Dorlee,
      You have added depth to this post by pointing out that it would be wise to adopt these skills in all interactions. You’ve also nicely summarized Jacqui’s and Jackie’s posts.

      Thank you!

  2. Hello Marianna,

    I must say that you are the quintessential example to follow for networking. You have such a knack for spinning a relationship thread, such as the creation of the #SummitFriends hashtag and then binding us together digitally via your post. What a wonderful way to strengthen your warm-hearted web of connection!

    It’s so cool to be a part of your blog post. And no, I am not a fishing enthusiast, but I like your metaphor and it’s a great intro to my post!! Thank you for including me and for your active network nurturing — and also an enthusiastic hello to Jacqui and Dorlee!

    Take care,
    Jackie

    1. Hi Jackie,
      “Warm-hearted web of connection” – I think that needs its own hashtag, don’t you?

      Here’s another one – “network nurturing”.

      I’m so glad that you are blogging for yourself. From time to time, I find myself wondering when your next post is going to come out. Anticipation!

  3. Goodness, Marianna, where do I start?

    I think first with the word ‘felicitous’ which is just one of hundreds of vocabulary examples that drew me to you early on (we’ve been engaging now for a number of years, 4-5, I believe?). I am enthusiastically attracted to people who raise the bar on communicating, connecting, learning and growing. You do just that, as do Dorlee and Jackie. Thank you all.

    Echoing Jackie, you have a true knack for spinning a relationship thread – I appreciate your creating #SummitFriends and then fortifying that image through this post! As well, Dorlee had a terrific point that the soft skills you mentioned could be considered ‘best practices.’

    I LOVE your illustration of ‘bad networking’ where folks ‘madly dash about.’ Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed that, and the other behaviors you described on many occasions. Those types of events can leave attendees over-stimulated and under-impressed.

    Your 5 points are so strong and offer a pragmatic and smooth way to transition bad behaviors into good, effective networking relationship behaviors: speaking from the heart, deflecting the spotlight, being ‘present and in the zone,’ and more. Wonderful strategies.

    I am adding a link to your post to my resource list for careerist clients who are thirsty for such real, focused and heartfelt advice.

    Merci, my #SummitFriend!
    ~Jacqui

    1. I can say the same thing – “Goodness, Jacqui, where do I start?”

      As is often the case, we sometimes don’t see what others see in us. Your comments have put some polish on my self-esttem. 🙂

      I began tweeting in the fall of 2009, and that’s were we met – so I think we’ve developed our relationship over the course of 4 years.

      You know that I admire your writing style, and sometimes I feel like you’re whispering in my ear, advising me to “write that sentence with a little more pizzazz.” The seeds you sow have deep roots, indeed!

      Thank you!

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