5 Networking Skills Your Teen Needs to Master
Humans are wired to connect with other humans more so than any other species I know.
We’re a species who, not only likes to connect but needs to connect. We’re social creatures, always have been and always will be.
Connections bring us love and happiness. Connections also bring us success. No matter what you want in life, chances are a person will make or break it. A new job? A person will make the call. A new business? A customer will make a difference. We may advance by the minute, but in the end, we’re just people connecting with other people.
Networking is a Critical Skill Your Teen Needs to Master
In the old days, getting a degree from a good school, joining the right fraternity or sorority, or living in the right neighborhood was all that was needed, from a networking perspective. Of course, in those old days, there were a limited number of slots in the right schools, or the right fraternity, or the right neighborhood. As a result, networking was a “rich-getting-richer” kind of thing.
Today, however, because of the “digital revolution” the opportunities to network have increased by many orders of magnitude. As a result, mastering how to connect with others through networking is no longer an option. It’s a mandatory skill.
If your kids are young, the actual exercises in networking may be years down the road, but like preparing for an exam in advance, building a network early — and learning the skill of connecting — is always smarter than trying to cram everything in the night before graduation.
From boosting their chances of future success and honing their communication skills to becoming more comfortable talking with adults and thinking of how they can serve others, building an effective network at any age comes with too many perks to ignore.
Below are five tips to get you started…
Step 1: Teach your teen to build their network with intention. The idea isn’t to collect as many contacts as possible but to develop a network of quality connections. Depth is far more important than width. Possible contacts for your teen include coaches, teachers, local business owners, and civic leaders.
Step 2: Teach your teen the importance of regular contact. A network is a living, breathing thing. It needs care and attention to survive and develop, so encourage your kids to reach out to the people in their network on a consistent basis, aiming for face to face whenever possible.
Step 3: Teach your teen that networking is a two-way street. It’s about giving as much if not more than you get. Anyone who constantly takes without giving thought to reciprocating will find his or her contacts quickly vanish. How can your teen deliver value to each and every person in their network? That’s the question to ask more often than how can their network help them.
Step 4: Teach your teen to use their love (obsession?) of social media to enhance their network. Social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook make finding new connections as easy as a few clicks, not to mention the ease they offer of staying up to date and in touch. To kick things off, help your teen create and maintain an updated LinkedIn profile.
Step 5: Teach your kids, as early as you can, how to interact and empathize with other people. Ask them to order at restaurants, help them pay at the grocery store, stand by as they answer the door, and, most important, talk with them at the dinner table with no tech in sight. Or you can overachieve like Charles: “I used to have my teens do presentations at the family dinner table. At first it was uncomfortable for them, but they quickly got used to the concept of presenting themselves and their ideas.” Not a bad way to teach an invaluable lesson.
It’s never too soon to network or to build the skills of connecting with people. Start early, start strong, and help your teen develop an asset that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
And, something we will talk about in depth, the best way to test these networking skills is to model them to your kids. The do as I say, not as I do mentality does not work at all for communication. In fact, is counter-productive. Because your kids your learn that saying is more important than doing.