SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 24 July 2020Soft Skills: Why They are Harder Than You Think and How You Can Acquire Them
New year, new you. As a young professional getting ready to make your mark in this great, big world, what kinds of things are you going to be doing to make sure you take advantage of your networking opportunities?
Unless you’re a naturally friendly extrovert, you probably won’t meet as many new people as you expect. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change that. You may not have thought about it before, but every day presents a new opportunity to meet new, exciting people that you may one day be getting helpful tips from or even working with.
Here are 4 networking tips that’ll help you make the most your day:
1) Take the First Step in Networking with Others
If you’re scared of talking to new people right now, you won’t magically improve in the next few days. The only way to get better is to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Check out this article from psychology today explaining the things people fear before death! The fear of rejection supersedes death? You have got to be kidding me. Unfortunately, its a sad reality for most. The best way to get over a fear is to keep doing it, over and over again. Force yourself to talk to strangers and see where the conversation goes. What’s the worst that could happen? You look or sound awkward. What’s the best that could happen? You earn a new connection that can grow into something much bigger - like an interview for an exciting new job!
2) Communicate with Peers by Speaking the Same Language
Passengers don’t grab the wheel. Don’t barge into a stranger’s conversation with an irrelevant comment. It’s happened to me countless times. A stranger walks up, introduces himself, then jumps into a rant about his impossible coding assignment. I’m not a CS major and I don’t care about your coding assignment. Meaningful conversations start by speaking the other person’s language. If the stranger likes music, talk about genres. If he likes food, talk about nearby restaurants. If she’s a CS major, feel free to whine about that terrible, terrible coding assignment. The most effective communication starts with the desire to want to make aa connection right away. What happened to me before was someone talking AT me not TO me. There is a huge difference. If you are in the office, take note of this as well, as making friends 101 (if it were a real class) suggests that there should be an equal give and take in every conversation.
3) The More Attentive you are, the Better Connections you will Make
My friends and I used to hang out with a girl whose eyes were more focused on her phone than on the people around her. Whenever we went out to lunch, she stared at her phone and gave us generic replies like “yeah”, “uh huh”, and “mmm”. This obviously upset us and we eventually lost contact. Don’t give other people your half-baked attention. Be interested in the other person and genuinely care what they have to say. Sometimes this doesn’t apply, but in most cases, just looking the other person in the eyes, smiling, nodding, and asking good questions can take you from strangers to friends. If you learn to develop good communicating skills, you will connect with more people. Plain and simple. If you are guilty of such actions, do what you can to change your behaviors - it will come handy in the workforce whether you are searching for a job or working at your first job post college.
4) Learn to Ask for Contact Information
Having a great conversation with a stranger isn’t enough. It sounds strange, but ask for their number. If you’re not comfortable doing that, get their Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. This can help you connect with them at a later time and grow your friendship. A few years ago, I went to a conference and found my doppelgänger. After the initial surprise, we hung out, met new people, and took classic “twinning” pictures. But by the time the event ended, I forgot to ask for his contact info and lost the opportunity to build a connection. Don’t lose out on simple mistakes - keep your phone at your side and get ready to network! Learn to ask for cards, Twitter handles and other relevant pieces of contact information, but before you do that make sure to ask the best way to get a hold of them. You will be benefiting yourself a great deal as a young professional if you learn to properly ask for contact information.
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