How do you practice networking skills?

4-H is a great place to practice meeting new people and making connections.

Networking is a valuable skill, and Michigan 4-H offers many ways to practice this skill. Youth who attend a national event such as National 4-H Congress or Citizenship Washington Focus have many opportunities to network amongst delegates from other states. Networking, just like other skills, takes practice to become proficient and confident. Here are some tips for how to start conversations at a national event.

  • Ask a question. This can be as simple as, “Where are you from?” Any question will get a conversation started.
  • Be curious. Why did this person decide to attend this event? What do they want to do with this leadership experience?
  • Comment on a shared experience. “Yesterday’s speaker was so inspiring!” “What was your favorite part of the museum last night?”
  • Observe. Are they carrying a book? Ask what it’s about. Are they wearing a sports team logo hat or jacket? Ask how their team is doing. Did they get excited when someone mentioned working in the biotech industry? Ask about their educational goals.
  • Find connections between yourselves. Do you like the same music? Do you show the same animals? Do you have similar college plans?
  • Find the differences and learn from them. Do you have different 4-H experiences? Do you have different political views? See what you can learn from the other person instead of just telling them about your own experiences and ideas.
  • Be yourself. Don’t feel like you need to be the class clown to be noticed, or the person with the wildest hand gestures, or the person who has accomplished the most. Be genuine and look for genuine connections with others.

Once you have started a conversation with someone, it is easier to find and make connections with them. Networking takes practice, but can pay off as a valuable skill in the workplace and beyond!

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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