4 Steps for Leveraging Your Strengths While Networking

Dr. Kirstin DeMartino

28 September 2020

One of the biggest frustrations often voiced about networking is that it feels fake or inauthentic. If pitching yourself or making small talk feels outside of your comfort zone, it may be time to reframe your networking approach in a way that feels more true to you and your natural strengths. Rather than focusing on your discomfort in the experience, put your energies into what you do best. Here are four ways to leverage your strengths for a better networking experience that feels more organic to you.


Approach networking with the goal to be a connector—connecting at least one person you meet with someone else.

Featured Resource: Leadercast 2020—Ripple Effect

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1. Identify your strengths. Self-awareness can go a long way. You can utilize a formal strengths inventory, such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder, to get a formal report of your natural talents. This can give you formal language and aid in the reflection process. More simply, you can talk to a handful of people who know you best. Ask them about the talents they see in you and have them share a few examples of times they’ve seen your strengths in action. Have conversations with people across different settings, and then pull out any themes you hear. You can also spend time reflecting on which tasks come to you most naturally, and what you are doing when you are your happiest, most comfortable self. These are great clues to your natural talents. 

2. Reflect on past networking successes. Think back to an experience in the last six months when you met someone new and made a successful new connection. Reflect on what you enjoyed about the experience. What made that conversation feel natural?  Pinpoint what strengths you brought to that experience. Did you draw on your storytelling skills to share a personal experience and take the conversation deeper? Were you able to provide a meaningful recommendation of a podcast, book or restaurant based on a mutual interest? Understanding your past successes and what talents you utilized can help you repeat them in the future.

3. Set specific networking goals that align with your strengths. One of your first strategies can be to think about a networking opportunity as something else. If you would typically rather spend your time exploring data than making small talk, make a mental shift to think about your fellow networkers as your data. Go in with a few solid questions that will allow you to treat the conversation as an information-gathering opportunity. You could also approach networking with the goal to be a connector—connecting at least one person you meet with someone else. This allows you to get to know others with the goal to hear commonalities and connections. If you do best with task-based work, set a numeric goal for how many connections you plan to make in a given time frame. 


4. Draw on your natural talents in environments that best fit you. Perhaps you have a great talent for recollection. This can thrive in settings where you can reconnect with colleagues you have engaged with in the past. Starting with people you know allows you to catch up, which can give you energy to move forward and build new connections. Or maybe you are at your most dynamic when given the opportunity to discuss a topic you are passionate about. Focus on topic-specific experiences that allow you to shine and find others who share your interest. If you are someone who thrives with structure and consistency, look for opportunities with built-in structure in which you can participate, such as speed rotations or preassigned groups.

You are most likely to make authentic, meaningful connections when you engage in a way that is true to who you are. With a small amount of self-awareness, defined goals and the right environment, your talents can open up a wealth of new connections.  

Dr. Kirstin DeMartino

Dr. Kirstin DeMartino is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and a university administrator who has worked with college students in a variety of capacities for the last 13 years. She is an engaging presenter and coach, who loves helping learners of all ages connect their unique talents to their personal and professional goals.

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