Illustration showing seven corporate professionals and how they're linked within a network.

Simplifying Soft Skills Series: Networking and Relationship Building

The ability to build and maintain professional networks is a critical part of a professional’s soft skill repertoire. See tips for successful relationship building from Accel5®

Networking looks a bit different these days. Conversations once held over cups of coffee have turned into Zoom calls and LinkedIn messages. We can no longer rely on casual run-ins with colleagues. Serendipitous situations are on stand-by as we stay safely behind computer screens and cell phones.

What does this mean? It certainly doesn’t mean we are in contact any less. In fact, Microsoft’s annual Work Trend Index, which surveyed more than 30,000 people across 31 countries, shows that time spent in meetings each week has more than doubled over the past year and chats sent per person each week have increased more than 40 percent and are rising.

Shape Your Relationship Building Strategy

With an increase in digital conversations, it’s important to make sure we stop seeing relationships as either physical or digital but continue to cultivate relationships. An exclusive Accel5 video with Crystal Kadakia explores a three-step approach for shaping your relationship building strategy.

  • If current relationships aren’t fulfilling, create new ones. If you aren’t finding value in the relationships you have, make a shift and reach out to new people. Leave limiting or even toxic relationships behind and make space for new points of view.
  • Recognize your relationship capacity. This is the extent to which you can maintain meaningful relationships. Make a choice of who you want to cultivate deep relationships with and those you do not.
  • Explore different means of communicating. Whether it’s a Teams chat, email or phone call, investigate different channels for communication and find one that works best for you and your close community.

Hold Meaningful Conversations

When engaging in conversation, especially with new or unfamiliar people, be sure to be conscious of both verbal and visual communication, or the way you are portraying yourself to others. In Flip-Flops & Microwaved Fish, Peter Yawitz provides insights for communicating for success (we’ve adapted for remote situations).

  • Make eye contact. This one can seem difficult over video calls but, when possible, turn your camera on and try to replicate that face-to-face interaction.
  • Study and remember names. Study organizational charts before meeting someone new and write down names upon first hearing them.
  • Speak clearly and concisely. Avoid using too many filler words like “um” or “uh” and stay clear of distracting vocal affectations.
  • LISTEN and take notes. Whether you’re engaged in important meetings or simple small talk, take notes and don’t be afraid to recap the important themes or action items from what others have said.

Create Lasting First Impressions

Lastly, you never get a second chance at a first impression. Science says you have up to four minutes to make your desired impression on someone, otherwise you’ve lost your chance. Understanding the first few seconds of interaction, whether it be new or old is important. Steve McDermott explains how you can use the 4-minute rule to make a great first impression.

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