If you’ve ever met me, you’d know I talk a lot.
I possess the knack to engage in conversations, learn from others, and build relationships.
Given these traits, you might think I network greatly. But honestly, I need to improve in that area.
You might ask why I share this self-assessment.
Well, I believe we should recognize our weaknesses just as we celebrate our strengths. Why? Because understanding our skills is vital for professional growth.
Hunters sharpen their knives, and we need to hone our skills or our “Skill-Kit.”
Your skill-kit includes the abilities you must have to excel in your role. Like a hunter’s knife, you need to keep your skills sharp and ready.
As you advance in your career, you’ll need to develop some skills, sharpen others, and perhaps abandon a few.
For Me? Improve Networking
In my case, I need to sharpen my networking skills.
You might find it odd, considering how talkative I am and how much I love meeting new people, that I consider networking a dull skill. Let me explain.
Just because I communicate and listen well doesn’t mean I excel at networking.
I struggle with making small talk, especially at networking events. So, I must admit that I need to refine my small talk skills.
I find several difficulties with small talk, and I need to identify the root causes of these challenges. Identifying obstacles is my first step to improve this skill.
Here are three other hurdles I face, along with my strategies for improvement.
Better Seen Than Heard
From a young age, I absorbed the adage “Better seen than heard.”
Although I can’t pinpoint the exact source of this belief, my parents certainly didn’t instill it in me intentionally.
This idea has influenced how I interact, making me feel that unless my contributions in conversations are of high value, I shouldn’t express them.
I need to challenge this mindset. If I embrace the belief that every voice, including mine, has inherent worth, I can actively participate and engage authentically in discussions, no matter the immediate perceived value of my input.
Be a Thought Leader
While my journey has been marked by vast experience and knowledge, the internal battle to recognize myself as a thought leader persists.
This self-doubt often becomes a barrier in discussions, particularly when I’m amidst seasoned professionals with expansive audiences.
It’s crucial for me to understand that the size of one’s following or the number of years under one’s belt doesn’t solely define thought leadership.
True leadership emanates from the unique perspectives and insights one brings to the table.
By valuing my own experiences and the distinct lens through which I view the world, I can assert my position and contribute meaningfully in any discourse.
Woman in a Man’s World
I’ve always pursued jobs based on merit, not gender. However, I occasionally feel uncomfortable approaching my male counterparts at events.
There’s an inner dialogue that suggests I need to start with a sports reference to initiate a conversation.
In these simplified examples, a common theme emerges – the feeling that I won’t add value to a conversation.
Now, we’re onto something. The issue isn’t my inability to make small talk; it’s the belief that I lack value in initial networking conversations.
Can this problem be solved? Absolutely.
Now that we’ve identified what’s been holding me back in my networking skills, let’s explore three actionable tips to sharpen these skills and overcome these obstacles:
Value Your Voice
Embrace the idea that your voice matters, and your insights have value.
Networking isn’t just about sharing groundbreaking ideas; it’s about building connections and learning from others.
Remind yourself of your accomplishments and unique perspectives in your field to boost your confidence in networking situations.
Become a Thought Curator
Even if you don’t see yourself as a thought leader, you can curate discussions.
Focus on asking thoughtful questions and facilitating meaningful conversations.
This approach not only overcomes the fear of not being the most experienced person in the room but also encourages others to share their insights, making conversations more engaging.
Connect as an Individual, Not a Gender
In a predominantly male field, shift your perspective from gender to shared interests, experiences, and goals when approaching conversations with male counterparts.
Building connections based on common ground can break the ice and lead to more meaningful interactions.
Your expertise and insights are valuable, regardless of gender.
Address the Barriers
Sharpen your networking skills by identifying and addressing barriers that hinder your effective engagement in conversations.
Understand that you bring value to discussions, no matter if you’re a thought leader, and feel empowered to share your unique perspective.
Curate discussions, ask insightful questions, and focus on common ground to break down barriers.
Networking isn’t about how many words you use; it’s about the quality of connections you make. With these tools, you’re on your way to becoming a more confident and effective networker.
Continue to hone your skills, and see your network grow stronger, enhancing your professional journey.
Last modified: October 23, 2023