Earlier this week, a friend and I decided to check out a local networking event in Allentown. I love the restaurant and it was a gorgeous evening so I knew we’d be able to spend time outdoors. We grabbed a drink and stood in the crowd catching up. Out of no where, a woman comes around my right side and introduces herself.
Impressed by her gumption, we both started chatting with her. She asked what we do for a living and where we live in the Valley. We returned the favor and asked her where she worked and lived and she began to describe how she was working full-time in an industry that was not ideal for her. We asked her what she was seeking and fully supported her interests by offering to connect her to a few people we know in the area. We exchanged business cards, she thanked us and went on her way. Seems like a typical networking encounter, correct?
My friend and I turned to each other, acknowledged the whirlwind that that was and befuddled regarding the fact that she did not even want to continue to learn more about us. My friend said that if she had run into a career coach like myself, she would have tried to chat with me more and take advantage of me being right there, free of charge. I wouldn’t have blamed her for doing so, in fact, I felt the same way…why hadn’t she stuck around to get to know us?
My belief is that when you are desperate to move on from a position or career and someone gives you the advice to get as many business cards as you can at networking events, you lose out on the opportunity to truly connect with someone, get to know them and learn about the ways you can help each other.
We stood around for a while discussing what she could have done better, again, admiring her straight-shooter approach but knowing full well that perhaps her more successful strategy should have been reciprocal in nature, not transactional. Avoid the “bad taste in others mouths” impression and stick around for a conversation. Building relationships genuinely and over time will pay off in the end in dividends that you oftentimes cannot even compute at the time. Below are some tips for turning a quick networking transaction into a relationship:
1. Truly listen to what the other person is saying. There are gems of advice and sage pieces of wisdom in everyone’s professional story. That same night, we met a gentleman who has been running a successful investment property company while simultaneously making a 300% mark-up/profit selling stationary and funeral announcements to funeral home directors. He learned this trade and skill selling this product through a different company and then choosing to work for himself, taking his clients with him from that company.
2. Offer a favor in return. Last month, I attended a Chamber affiliated young professionals’ group networking event and met an easy-to-speak with financial planner. We chatted about the area as I told him I recently returned and was looking to meet other professionals in the area. He offered to meet me for coffee so we could see how we could help each other. It seemed like each of us was looking for mentor – me for the area and him to promote his professional development and advance the career profile of the professionals in the Valley. That conversation made me feel energized, like a part of something and potentially the start of a great professional relationship.
3. Sit at the bar. When the event started to wind down, my friend and I realized we were pretty hungry. We decided to grab a seat at the bar and order dinner. There were two seats but one gentleman was sitting in between them so we kindly asked him to move over and invited him to join our conversation. He turned out to be a very nice guy who knew all of the bartenders and was a regular at this restaurant. We immediately had an in, lucky us! Plus, many people visit the bar to order drinks, which gave us both a way to chat with more people and we didn’t even have to go anywhere. If you happen to not be near the flow of “drink-ordering” traffic, you always have the bartender(s) to network with and they meet tons of people every day.
For more advice, follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn @MeghanGodorov.
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