Small talk can be exhausting. Frivolous, surface-level banter can feel like a waste of time, especially in the workplace. Oftentimes, people confuse networking for workplace banter. In reality, it is the opposite. Networking is about making valuable connections and expanding your circle of trusted individuals. 

Here’s how to effectively network and use it to your advantage.

A New Perspective

Early in her career, Lashaunique Plummer, a HR business and operations leader and founder of Balangize, hated small talk and networking. She struggled to network because she considered it to be a superficial form of communication. 

“Small talk is too surface-level to me, and honestly, it only goes so far,” she told 21Ninety. “While I am an extrovert, I also enjoy building deep connections with others.”

It’s important to reframe networking as a form of relationship building. Plummer explained that networking is actually about building strategic and intentional relationships. Women in the workplace should network across their industries and up and down their company’s pipeline. It is key to career advancement, allowing everyone to gain access to resources and learn new skills. 

Curiosity Drives Effective Networking

Genuine curiosity is key. You can show curiosity and build a professional connection by asking questions about how they are driving company success, what their personal goals are and how they got their position. 

“If you want to add someone to your network in a meaningful way, genuinely listen, and get to know about them,” Plummer advised. 

In networking conversations, be sure to highlight your shared experiences, appreciation for their work and thoughtful questions to spark authentic connections. Plummer shared that building relationships comes easily to her, as she loves learning about people’s dreams, desires and interests.

“You only need 15 minutes to start a connection, and then they will want to know about you,” she said. “Before you know it, they will be ready to connect you with your next opportunity.”

Prioritize Listening and Observing

While you want to be seen and heard when you are networking, so does the person on the other side of the conversation. It’s important not to center yourself in the conversation. Shine a light on the person you are networking with, their accomplishments and their expertise. 

“Listen and observe first,” Plummer suggested. “There’s no question that you will build a network that will catapult you to your next opportunity.”