When it comes down to it, the most important thing isn’t for others to see you as charming, outgoing, or funny–they must see you as likable. Your professionalism may impress, but if you aren’t likable, there’s a good chance that others won't want to work with you later. The key to making waves while networking is your emotional intelligence.
“Likability is a key ingredient …and its career benefits are pretty obvious,” writes Harvey Deutschendorf in a Fast Company article. He knows that making a great first impression (i.e. showcasing your likability) is not easy, but he’s prepared a checklist of dos that will help you tap into your emotional intelligence quickly. Below are a few from his list:
Be enthusiastic. When meeting someone, act like you actually care. While there’s nothing wrong with formality, don’t be afraid to cut back some seriousness and show a little warmth. Deutschendorf warns against laying it on too thick; be natural, make eye contact and let loose a genuine smile.
Ask at least two open-ended questions. Prevent a one-way conversation by asking at least a couple of thoughtful questions. This will not only guide the conversation but also reveal your interest in the other person.
Give a compliment. Show appreciation for something about the person, whether it’s a recent accomplishment or blog post he or she wrote. Aren’t familiar enough with the person to think of a compliment? Ask a question or two that will clue you in.
Find something you share. Emotionally intelligent people easily connect with others by focusing on a commonality. You can uncover a shared belief or interest by observing what topics light them up and get them talking. “These little cues are easy to catch early on in your conversation, and they can make for great opportunities to quickly find commonalities, passions, and ideas to talk about in those crucial few minutes while we’re forming first impressions,” Deutschendorf explains.
So, the next time you find yourself in a networking situation, focus on showcasing your likability. Use Deutschendorf’s list to endear yourself to the other person, which will make you memorable, interesting, and, most importantly, likable.