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4 Quick and Effective Hacks for Successful Business Networking

4 Quick and Effective Hacks for Successful Business Networking

When I graduated from university, I wanted to be at every networking opportunity in the way that a small child wants to be at every birthday party. While all of the kids at a birthday would swing at a piñata for candy, all of the adults at a networking event are swinging at an invisible piñata of opportunity – so not too different, I guess. With a few spare minutes, I would search up every open networking brunch, party and event in Vancouver for that month. If possible, I would peruse into media meetups, and get myself onto lists for social hotspots where I could learn from other people, while also casually marketing myself to people I felt that I could work with.

With a few spare minutes, I would search up every open networking brunch, party and event in Vancouver for that month. If possible, I would peruse into media meetups, and get myself onto lists for social hotspots where I could learn from other people, while also casually marketing myself to people I felt that I could work with.

Finding a Better Balance

After speaking with several of my friends recently, it turns out that several of them are put off by the idea of a networking cocktail party, and I don’t blame them. After a while, making yourself consistently available during weeknights can be difficult, especially when you have other responsibilities and day jobs to be refreshed for. Not to mention knowing which chat topics work, when to throw your business card at someone, and being able to introduce yourself in a way that appears professional, yet relaxed and social.

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So I thought through which alternatives I have used and decided to make a list of quick networking tips for those who are tired of networking events and evenings, or for those who are perhaps not as comfortable in these settings. After all, it was thriving billionaire Richard Branson who suggested that a lack of life balance in ignoring our well-being may actually be what burns away our capabilities in the long term. For anyone aspiring to find a better balance, or find more time with your family, or even a few extra hours for the gym or the couch, this quick networking guide is for you!

  1. LinkedIn Messaging

One thing that I did do during my obsessive networking binge was gain connections through LinkedIn, and ACTUALLY converse with them; every conversation requires an initiation to begin, so I would direct questions to those who held impressive experiences under their name, in the hope that I could learn from them, and perhaps establish a mutual appreciation and understanding. This occurred on multiple occasions, and through this, I was able to gain advice I might not have found otherwise in my early twenties. I also gained access to more hush-hush events and hooked numerous tips on how to become more appealing in a professional sense.

Many of these individuals are people I am still in touch with today. So how do you decide who is best to contact? According to The Week, a great place to start is by envisioning that you have lost your job. Who would be the five to ten people you’d want to go to for advice? The worst thing that could happen is that they don’t have the time or desire to speak with you. At at that point, move on and connect with people who do want to speak with you!

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  1. Strategize Your Cocktail Party Endeavors

Given how effective personal connection can be, you could still attend a cocktail party, but with more premeditated thought. I know, many of you mentioned that you’re tired of cocktail evenings, but here’s where we can change it up. The Grindstone states that if you are able to research who is going to be there, and you find that there are three contacts that could drastically improve your vision and opportunity, focus specifically on finding and meeting them.

When I first started attending these types of events, I found myself trying to casually mingle with everyone, but this can be considered a weak approach, as receiving forty business cards is less powerful than three or four people who you made a deeper connection with through quick networking. If you know what you need to accomplish, make it happen, and deliver your message in a focused and direct way. This has you leaving earlier than you would have otherwise. Consider this as an ideal compromise.

  1. Follow Your Dream Contacts on Social Media

Sometimes, the best way to start a conversation is a post on social media, especially when it has been crafted by the person you are looking to connect with. According to Forbes, using social media to your advantage in business can allow for contacts to fall right into your lap. If someone posts something that you are curious about, ask them questions.

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If someone posts something that you enjoyed, share it and perhaps comment on how much you learned. Try to make this positive experience more about them, and less about promoting yourself. Surrounding yourself online with the content of clever people can also positively impact your thinking as well, and have you strive to be better at what you do.

  1. Encourage Conversation Through LinkedIn Pulse

If you already enjoy writing or are looking to learn from others, you might like the publishing feature on LinkedIn, known as LinkedIn Pulse. To summarize, you write and publish a blog-style post (often on something career-oriented that you are specialized in, or a response to something in the business world), and all of your connections are able to see it.

It might not seem like quick networking, but if you frame it to contain several questions, you may find that a few contacts reach out to you to give you their interpretation on your topic. Be sure to listen and show appreciation for their feedback (unless their feedback is highly rude and inappropriate). You can also send the link to your article to someone who you admire, and ask what their thoughts are on it.

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Conclusion

It seems that everyone can benefit from a dense network of compelling contacts. But not everyone is able to make the time to be out each night, networking until the break of dawn, and that is perfectly okay. Everyone is different, and there is not just one way to thrive and be successful. Hardcore attendance at local events worked for me, but so did quick networking. In fact, I was actually able to broaden my circle and establish more connections internationally, just by using these quick networking practices. If there are multiple methods to success, then why not sample the side that has your well-being in mind? it is important to acknowledge your health, as taking a break is professional, but burning out of steam on the job is not.

Featured photo credit: www.americancollegespain.com via americancollegespain.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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