Effective networking is just like dating. Think of it in those terms (minus the romantic component). You should be utilizing best practices in getting to know your contact and building a positive rapport that will lead to a long-standing relationship. Meeting new contacts as often and as much as possible and establishing a real connection can be a tremendous difference maker in the trajectory of your career. As you get more senior in your industry and function, getting the best, most interesting and most fruitful jobs in the market are heavily dependent on your network and how willing they are to serve as your shepherd. Here are four things you need to do when meeting a new contact for the first time.
Keep the conversation focused on your contact
If you want to get into someone’s good graces, you need to let go of your own ego. Focus instead on what someone else may need. Ask them as many questions as you can but in the normal flow of conversation. Showing genuine interest in helping someone else will facilitate trust and reciprocity.
Ask about their career history and who helped them
Find out a bit about your contact’s background and growth trajectory. How did she make it to where she is today? What are some of the lessons she learned along the way? A discussion of this type will get your contact to talk about herself and possibly serve as a reminder about the work she had to do to get where she is. This should encourage open dialogue with respect to what you are doing and open up the lines of communication. You can identify similar experiences and focus on creating a meaningful bond.
Share personal stories
When the conversation comes to you, try to share personal stories, especially if you faced adversity. Talk about your family, your own struggles, and what your aspirations are. People will appreciate your position and your story. Don’t be shy; your goal is to leave a lasting and positive memorable impression.
Invite them out to a different setting
If you are meeting this person for coffee, invite them to lunch next time. And vice versa. Always have a follow-up idea to get on the person’s calendar again. If the two of you hit it off, this should come naturally, and you should want to do something more. People who only meet contacts once and only once are not networking to win. Real connections need face-time.
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.