Turn Networking Connections into Meaningful Relationships

Turn networking connections into meaningful relationships

Recently I was looking through the CPC calendar of upcoming events and the topic of the April tele-networking session caught my eye: How can CPC members turn long-distance networking into real relationships? Networking is something I am passionate about, both in the work I do with clients and personally. I enjoy coaching on new strategies for networking and exploring them myself. What I enjoy the most is turning my networking connections into meaningful relationships.

I started writing this post for my website’s blog, but then I realized that the steps for networking success that I was outlining for my clients were applicable to all of us — career pros and our clients.

What does networking mean to you? Is it a means to an end, or is it an ongoing strategy that supports your professional development and day-to-day work?

Networking, when leveraged correctly, can help you develop and improve your skillsets, meet potential mentors, partners, and clients, keep your fingers on the pulse of latest industry trends, learn about job and career opportunities, and gain access to resources to help you nurture professional growth.

How can networking yield these kinds of results? The results come when surface-level networking connections are stewarded into meaningful relationships.

The purpose of networking is to initiate relationships, not deepen them. The deepening happens after the initial networking occurs. Here are some tips I’ve learned and practice on how to transition basic associations into meaningful and rewarding relationships.

Create a Sincere First Impression

First impressions are said to be made in the first seven seconds. Those seconds are crucial to establishing a sincere connection between you and the person in front of you.

Skip the small talk and dive right into a real conversation. Don’t start with topics like the weather or the buffet and skip generic questions like “What do you do?”.

Talk about industry happenings, trends, challenges, and be sure to talk with people, not at them. Most certainly, refrain from delivering a sales pitch. Conversation is a skill and, fortunately, it’s one that can be improved.

Follow Up, Show Interest, and Be a Resource

Networking etiquette says that you should not monopolize someone’s time when you are attending an event. Everyone attends events with the goal of meeting others, which means attendees should be aware of and respect the need to keep conversations to a reasonable time limit. Asking for contact information to follow up afterwards is accepted and expected.

After meeting someone, send a short follow up message by email or phone. Key points to include in your message:

  • Identify where you met them (at which networking event).
  • Mention something you talked about to trigger their memory.
  • Include a call to action, ranging from a request to connect online to an invitation to meet again in person.

Be a resource, if possible. Share information, links to articles, or whatever you can to show that you thought further about the conversation you both had. A simple gesture shows that you paid attention and that you are a valuable resource — two excellent qualities to have in a new connection.

Nurture Your Network

Establishing a strong network takes time. Relationships don’t happen overnight. Consistent and genuine effort with your network will allow people to get to know you on the professional level you desire, which eventually leads them to trust you — and this is where the value of your network lies.

When people know you and trust you, they are more likely to share their network and resources with you.

Nurturing your network means being present and providing value. It doesn’t mean that you must regularly reach out to every single person in your network at a set time. Instead, engage in natural conversations, attend events and talk with new people and people you already know, send occasional check-in emails, go for coffee or lunch or after-5pm drinks.

How Networking Led Me to New Friendships and a Business Opportunity

I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of growing online connections into long-term, meaningful relationships. In recent years, I’ve become more heavily engaged on LinkedIn, where I was introduced to and connected with many respected career professionals and peers. By nurturing these connections (asking questions, sharing information, and providing one-to-one long-distance support), friendships were formed. When I had the chance to attend a well-known industry conference hosted by Career Thought Leaders in San Diego last year, I was delighted to meet many of these people face-to-face for the first time. Friendships and professional relationships that had started on LinkedIn blossomed into a new business venture. In collaboration with several of my esteemed peers, whom I have known for years but hardly ever see in person, we created and launched a new job search site called Job Search Secret Weapon. You never know how each person you meet or engage with will impact or help you in your own career path. For me, what started out as simple online connections has expanded into a very rewarding new business opportunity.

Your network is full of people. All you have to do is talk to them, show some interest, and be present for them. You can turn networking connections into meaningful relationships!

Adrienne Tom is an international award-winning executive résumé writer who founded Career Impressions over 12 years ago to provide senior leaders and top executives across North America with powerful career tools. Adrienne is also the co-founder of Job Search Secret Weapon, a membership platform for non-executive job seekers. As a proud member of Career Professionals of Canada, Adrienne enjoys supporting the CPC community as a certification assessor and board advisor.

Photo by rawpixel on 123RF

 

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