There is nothing more valuable in business than great networking skills. Networking is the foundation for building, strengthening and maintaining relational contacts. These contacts can be a mixture of social and professional — close friends, past and present colleagues, past and present employers, potential partners in parallel businesses, mentors, people you met at social affairs and more.

As an executive recruiter, job seekers often ask me to specifically define what networking skills include and how to build them effectively? Here are three top networking skills I recommend you focus on as you kick-start your fresh approach to expanding and building your business contacts.

Stay in touch. I know we are all busy with family, personal commitments and work, but a quick email a couple times a year to key players in your network goes a long way with little effort. Touch base to say hello and update your contacts with a brief summary of what you’ve been up to, and encourage them to do the same. Be sure to personalize the notes – this is not a blast email to everyone in your contact list.

Meet in person. Email is great for the quick touch base, but quality time comes from meeting someone in person. Say you’ve met somebody interesting at an event, but didn’t really have a chance to get into a good conversation about how you might be able to work together, schedule a professional coffee or lunch date to continue your chat. Put yourself out there and ask to meet up with the contact – most people appreciate the effort and respond positively.

Follow up. When you meet a new business contact, send them a handwritten note telling them that it was nice to meet them and reference a bit of your conversation so that they’ll remember who you are. Email for this communication is fine, too, but a handwritten note will make you stand out from the crowd, as receiving personal notes is rare these days. I truly cannot describe the power of this touch point. It requires only a few minutes of time, yet has proved invaluable to me throughout my career!

Effective networking is a critical part of growing your career and expanding your opportunities. Put these simple networking approaches into practice with your list of contacts, and reap the rewards that a little individualized effort can generate – both personally and professionally.

Do you have a question about networking skills? Let us know — we’d love to answer it!