Networking skills—like communication, active listening and social skills—are extremely valuable to have in both professional and personal environments and are particularly coveted by employers, as all successful businesses depend on networking. This said, it is not enough to simply have great networking skills. You also need to know how to market them in a resume.
In this article, we discuss what networking skills are, share examples of networking skills and offer advice for how you can improve your networking skills. We also offer recommendations for how you can highlight these skills during the interviewing process.
What are networking skills?
Networking skills are the competencies you need to have to maintain professional or social contacts. Networking is a critical skill in sales, business development and several other industries. Networking skills are necessary to make and develop relationships with new contacts and promote something of value.
Important networking skills to have
There are different skills that you can practice to become more effective at networking. They include:
- Active listening
- Social skills
- Public speaking skills
- Nonverbal communication
- Interpersonal skills
Communication is the act of exchanging information from one person to another. It involves speaking and empathizing with others to correctly receive the message that the other person is sending and responding accordingly. When networking, communication is essential to develop and maintain relationships with others.
Another important networking skill is active listening. To get people excited about your business and what you're sharing with them, you need to listen to and understand their needs. Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, nodding your head to show you understand what they're saying and responding appropriately. Active listening also ensures you're able to ask the right questions to keep a conversation moving forward.
These are the verbal and nonverbal skills that you use to interact with others. They include not only words but also gestures, body language and your personal appearance. It also includes friendliness, which conveys honesty and kindness. That, in turn, can create trust and understanding, which can build a strong foundation for a new relationship when you're networking.
Public speaking skills
Public speaking skills can help you be more comfortable if you find yourself talking to a group of people, particularly at a networking event. Even when you're just speaking with another person, one-on-one, public speaking skills can help you improve the way you articulate, helping the person you're speaking with better understand you.
Nonverbal communication is extremely important when networking. It's important to be aware of your own body language and any messages you may be sending the person with whom you're speaking. It's also beneficial to be able to read the body language of the person with whom you're speaking. This can tell you if you need to change the way you're expressing your message or alter something else in your communication style.
These are often referred to as "people skills" and they impact the way you communicate and interact with others. They include a variety of skills, but particularly skills like communicating, attitude and listening.
Empathy refers to the ability to feel what another person is feeling. Empathy skills are important for networking, as they make others feel that you understand and can relate to their emotions and experiences.
A positive attitude is another important networking skill, as others are drawn to those with a friendly, positive demeanor. Positivity can help you develop a strong rapport with others quickly and, in general, help you to be more instantly likable and memorable.
Humor is humanizing and helps people come together on common ground. When used appropriately, humor can draw people to you and eliminate tension, putting people immediately at ease. People with humor also tend to be more approachable.
Focus is also an important networking skill, as it enables you to give the person with whom you're speaking your full attention. It will help you be an active listener and allow you to better establish a genuine connection.
How to improve your networking skills
Here are some steps you can take to improve your networking skills:
1. Practice improving communication habits
Improve your networking skills by practicing good communication habits. Maintain eye contact when you're speaking with someone and nod your head in understanding or agreement. Use simple, straightforward language, ask questions and invite opinions. Pay attention to the body language of the person with whom you're speaking to ensure they understand and confirm whether they agree or disagree.
2. Ask friends for constructive feedback
Consider asking friends how you're coming across in conversation. Understanding where you can improve can help you improve your communication style, which can have a big impact on your networking skills.
3. Attend networking events
One of the best ways you can improve your networking skills is to practice them regularly. Attend networking events and focus on building a genuine human connection with the people you meet. Ask questions that show you're genuinely interested in getting to know the person you're speaking with and listen closely to the answer while maintaining eye contact. Respond with relevant questions to show you were listening. Focus on the quality of the relationships you're having rather than the quantity.
Related: 7 Networking Tips for Getting a Job
Networking skills in the workplace
While networking skills are most frequently used outside of the workplace, you can also employ them within the workplace to develop more meaningful relationships with your colleagues. Here are some ways you can use them:
Practice active listening
Practice listening more than you speak. Listen carefully to your co-workers or your supervisor, holding eye contact and leaning in slightly to show you're engaged with what they're saying. After they're done talking, formulate your response before responding.
Ask good questions
Asking the right questions can help you build trust and open the lines of communication. Keep your questions positive and focused on the subject you're discussing.
Read body language
Pay close attention to the body language of the people with whom you're speaking. Also, consider the message you may be sending through your own body language.
How to highlight networking skills
Networking skills are beneficial in every step of the job search and—depending on the career field you're entering—could be essential within your job. Here are a few ways you can highlight these skills within each step of the application process:
Networking skills for resume
Look for different word choices to convey your ability to create and maintain business relationships. For example, instead of listing your skills as "networking skills," you may want to write "business relationships strategy" or "business development" within the skills section of your resume.
You can also emphasize your networking skills within the work history section of your resume. For example, you could say that you managed clients and other important relationships as part of your job.
Networking skills for cover letter
A cover letter is another great location to highlight your networking skills. Like your resume, you can discuss business development or client relations experiences. You could also share that you have been mentored by someone in a more senior position than you. It takes confidence and strong networking skills to reach out to another professional and ask them to mentor you.
Networking skills for the job interview
You can demonstrate your networking skills first-hand during a job interview. Shake the interviewer's hand firmly and maintain eye contact throughout the interview. Ask insightful questions and show them that you have done your research on the company in advance. Practice active listening throughout the interview, listening closely to ensure you fully understand the question and pause to consider your answer before responding. If appropriate, you may want to consider any experiences you have had creating or maintaining client relationships.