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In today’s global, competitive, and collaborative world, networking is a vital skill to develop. Whether you’re a freelancer attending conferences to meet industry insiders or an entrepreneur thinking up business gift ideas to entice promising suppliers, effective networking leads to new opportunities.
In this blog post, we’ll provide valuable tips for mastering the art of networking by making genuine connections that last.
Transactional give-and-takes are useful in the short term. However, if your goal is a long-lasting connection, then it’s important to expand beyond that. Instead of expecting an immediate reward for your help, offer assistance without expecting anything in return.
It may be difficult at first, but if you stick with it, it’s a powerful way to build connections. Genuinely helping others demonstrates your kindness and generosity—both features that leave a positive, lasting impression. Whenever possible, look for opportunities to support others when they face challenges. Even small acts of kindness can go a long way.
Authenticity can be summed up in one popular and helpful piece of advice: say what you mean and mean what you say. It starts by being honest with yourself. Once you’ve mastered that, extend your honesty outwards so it becomes a natural part of your daily interactions.
When talking with others, show genuine interest in what they say and do. Avoid faking interest. Not only is it inauthentic, but it also hinders the development of a meaningful connection. People are quick to pick up on it, and it leaves a bad impression. To practice authenticity, be present during conversations, expand your empathy, and connect with what you genuinely find interesting.
You can certainly have a genuine connection with someone right away. However, ensuring that connection lasts will take a lot more than one meeting. That’s largely because meaningful relationships require trust, and trust takes a long time to build (and, if you’re not careful, a very short time to destroy).
So, take a deep breath, be patient, and don’t expect immediate results. Focus on gradually building rapport through ongoing conversations. In addition, be a regular at networking events and play the long game.
Active listening is crucial to building genuine connections that last. All too often, we defer to passive listening. When another persona is speaking, we listlessly nod along without really considering what they’re trying to get across because we’re thinking about what we’ll say next. Everyone does it at some point, but for effective networking, it’s important to reign in the habit.
Replace passive listening with active listening. The latter pays attention to what someone else says while they’re saying it. Active listeners don’t simply nod along. Instead, they summarize what the other person is expressing and ask follow-up questions to learn more or to confirm they understand correctly.
If you meet someone at a conference, don’t let the connection fade into oblivion. Instead, follow up. This simple act—which many people overlook—signals your interest in further engagement and shows that you value their input.
Following up can be as easy as sending an email a few days after your initial meeting. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A few sentences on how much you enjoyed the conversation mixed with an interest in staying connected is all it takes. Just remember to be genuine. Avoid sending a canned email that could have been sent to dozens of others.
Networking in the long term is all about mutually beneficial relationships—ones built on trust, authenticity, and genuine connections. Practice the above tips consistently, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering this crucial skill.