When it comes to networking, there are several special ingredients. How to toss, fold, and mix them together can be thought of as the art of building relationships, some of which become masterpieces and last a lifetime.
One of the most important pieces of career advice I ever received is to find and foster professional relationships with people you like, admire, and respect. The difficulty often lies in determining which relationships are worth spending your time to cultivate. Here are six tips to help you create masterpiece relationships through networking.
- Prepare: Before an event you’re planning to attend, give some thought to the audience and what may be of most interest or relevant to them. For example, when I’m preparing for an event, I think about how Kreischer Miller’s team of professionals has added value for clients similar to the attendees—beyond providing accounting and tax services, we continually seek ways to help private company business owners become more effective leaders, improve the efficiencies of their operations, and advance toward their financial goals. This preparation helps me frame my conversations with the people I’m meeting more effectively.
- Show up Early: Early arrival at a networking event is a much better strategy than late arrival. It’s easier to begin a conversation with someone because they have not yet joined a group discussion with others.
- Be Proactive: It’s best not to wait for someone to approach you. Approach a person or a group, and say, "May I join you?" or "What brings you to this event?" Listen intently to their replies; listening can be an excellent way to get to know a person.
- Add a Pinch of Kindness: Keep your conversation fun, light, and informal. Many years ago, a colleague advised me to pretend that everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying “Please make me feel important; say ‘Hi’ to me.” This message stayed with me and pops into my mind when I attend networking events and see someone who is not engaged in conversation.
- Toss in Passion: Win people over with your enthusiasm. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious, too. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.
- Exit with Caution: Should you find yourself spending too much time with someone, thank your conversation partner for their time and say, “Excuse me, I see someone I’d like to say ‘Hi’ to across the room. I hope you enjoy your day/afternoon/evening.”
- Follow Up: If you determine that you want to stay in touch, ask the best way to communicate- email, phone, or social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you.
Building relationships isn’t easy; keeping good ones can be equally difficult. Good relationships don’t just happen; they take time and patience. It’s important to recognize that when someone gives you their time, they are giving you a portion of their life that they will never get back. Time is one of the most precious gifts you can give and receive.
Keep people in your network who truly want to help you, motivate you, encourage you, and make you happy. Do not keep in touch with anyone who does not!
Blythe Seese is a Business Development Manager with Kreischer Miller. Blythe joined Kresicher Miller in 2002 after a long tenure with PNC Bank. She is a member of many philanthropic organizations including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Drueding/Project Rainbow, For Pete's Sake, and Kids Smiles. Contact Blythe at Email.
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