Managing, Leading & Personal Effectiveness

Developing Networking Skills in 2024

The digital revolution has changed how we connect with one another. In the workplace, virtual meetings and remote working have become the new normal. As technology dominates the professional landscape, it is more important than ever to develop your networking skills.

Networking is not always easy, particularly in remote working environments where you miss out on the spontaneous, informal conversations that come naturally in the office.  

For your networking efforts to be successful, not only do you need to ensure that you are communicating effectively, you also need to have the confidence to assert yourself as a leader, opening yourself up to progression within your organisation.

If you are interested in becoming more effective at networking, take a look at QA’s courses on soft skills and leadership.

What is networking?

Networking is the connection and exchange of information between professionals, usually based on a shared interest in industry knowledge.

Networking has existed for as long as business has. But since the digital revolution, people and businesses have been forced to evolve. Interactions can be made over camera rather than face-to-face, and you’re no longer limited to connecting only with people nearby when social media creates infinite possibilities. For the first time, you can network with anyone, at any time, from anywhere on Earth.

Networking can benefit everyone, from the entry-level graduate to the C-level executive. For those at the beginning of their career, networking can give you experience of different methods, processes, and industry perspectives. For managers, networking can enhance your creativity, helping you learn new ways to improve productivity. For the most experienced in their industry, networking allows you to share your knowledge and build a strong list of innovative, forward-thinking connections.

10 skills you need when networking

There are many skills you can develop which, used individually or in tandem, will make your networking more effective. Networking skills can also benefit other areas of your professional life, such as your productivity. Let’s take a look at the 10 examples below.

1. Communication

When networking with people, it is crucial that you can present clear, concise ideas. As well as improving productivity, effective communication helps to build strong social relationships.

2. Public speaking

Being able to speak to an audience shows you are able to take charge of delivering ideas and explanations to stakeholders. An added benefit is, the more you practise speaking publicly, the less nervous you will be when interacting with different people.

3. Email etiquette

In the digital revolution, it is essential to know the best practices of email communication. Using clear language, appropriate greetings, and double-checking for typos are just a few examples of how you can ensure your emails are professional and efficient.

4. Active listening

Active listening is listening not to criticise or come up with a reply, but to fully pay attention and understand someone’s message. Practising active listening helps you to build trust with others and show empathy.

5. Emotional intelligence

Being able to understand and manage your own emotions is a valuable skill that demonstrates you can be responsible for your own thoughts and feelings. You can learn more about emotional intelligence by taking one of QA’s courses: ‘Conquering Emotional Intelligence’ or ‘Working With Emotional Intelligence’.

6. Positivity

In Dr Jill Shepherd’s experience, networking can trigger feelings of insecurity. However, as Dr Shepherd describes: ‘When I do make the effort, more times than not, I get excited about the conversation, inspired to take it further.’ Staying positive demonstrates courage and enables you to move forward past doubts and setbacks.

7. Confidence

The more self-confidence you have, the better you will be at networking. Being confident about your ideas and abilities paints you as a competent and experienced professional. You can learn to assert yourself and build confidence with QA.

8. Ability to cope with feedback

Instead of overthinking or altogether ignoring negative feedback, processing it healthily is the best course of action. Having an open mind towards criticism shows your willingness to work on your shortcomings.

9. Focus

Focus on networking by looking back each week to see how much you've she spent with new people or discussing new ideas. Making your professional development a priority creates a good impression and helps you to accomplish your goals.

10. Respect

It goes without saying that you need to be accepting of the large variety of people you may interact with day-to-day. Inclusive workplaces foster innovation. Respecting the ideas and opinions of all individuals provides you with a thriving network of diverse perspectives.


How to get better at networking

Networking does not come naturally to all, but it is something you can master over time. Effective networking can boost your confidence, build lifelong connections, and propel you to the next stage of your career. Let’s take a look at 10 ways you can get better at networking.

1. Practise, practise, practise

As the saying goes: Practice makes perfect! Networking is not something you can just do without conscious effort. It’s like riding a bike; once you’ve got the hang of it, it will come to you instinctively.

2. Watch and learn from those you admire

There’s no better way to learn than through the experience and guidance of others. Having a mentor in your company is a great way to see how someone else is successful in their role. How do they communicate, or cope with difficult situations?

3. Ask friends and colleagues to give you feedback

This can be quite scary, but it is one of the ways you can become better at receiving feedback. Instead of avoiding feedback, directly ask for it! Do not be afraid of being critiqued, especially by those with more experience – their feedback can show you how to progress further in your role.

4. Prepare an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a quick 30-second statement for you to make a connection with someone. Knowing how to pitch yourself is a good way to develop self-confidence and positivity. It means if you are ever put on the spot to speak about yourself, you will be prepared for what to say.

5. Plan loose conversation topics if you’re nervous

You’ve prepared your opening elevator pitch – but what do you say after that? To avoid those awkward silences, having a backlog of topics, interests, and ideas can not only help someone get to know you, it can show your passion and interest in the industry.

6. Be in it for the long haul

Commitment is everything. If you are not fully invested in networking, you are unlikely to be successful. Contacts and connections are not just something to collect, but relationships you need to nurture consistently if you want them to last.

7. Prioritise your professional development

To practise those focusing skills, figure out how you can develop outside of your working hours. Read up on industry news, listen to a relevant podcast, or do your own research on networking skills.

Why not try one of QA’s Managing, Leading and Personal Effectiveness courses to work on a skill you’re struggling to improve?

8. Learn about body language

Body language is a powerful tool that goes hand in hand with your communication and public speaking skills. Standing tall, keeping an open stance, and remembering to smile are a few ways you can exude confidence and positivity.

9. Dress how you want to be perceived

Dressing professionally not only creates a good impression among others, it subconsciously makes you feel more confident and capable. ‘Dress for the job you want, not the job you have’, as they say.

10. Ask open questions – and engage with the answers

This is one of the ways you can work on active listening. Allowing someone to give a full answer, and then engaging with their response, lets you understand their perspective and reasoning.

It is important to invest in your professional self by taking up opportunities that will improve your workplace relationships and networking skills. Networking is an essential part of progressing through your career journey. To network effectively, you must be prepared to come out of your comfort zone and work on your weaknesses.

Looking for more ways to improve your soft skills? Check out our blog post on what makes a good leader.