If you learn how to build and nurture relationships in the corporate world, you can get a lot accomplished that your purely technically focussed colleagues would never be able to match. Get this apsect right and it’ll be worth more than all the technical skills you’ve picked up in your undergrad and MBA classrooms.
Ipseeta Aruni is a graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee with a keen interest in the arena of soft skills in business. If you stare hard enough, you might also see a highly talented hip-hop dancer who can amaze you with her electrifying moves on the dance floor. For now, she shares a few easier corporate moves that you could practice in your career and take it on accelerated growth path. This is the first of a series that she’ll be writing on the topic of building, sustaining and leveraging business networks.
Networking has been the buzzword of late in corporate circles. We harp on it, we stand in awe when we see a good networker. In short it’s paramount to a cataclysmic weapon which can help one bridge the bureaucratic divide in multi-tiered organizations swiftly. What does it take to be a good networker though?
Contrary to popular belief that networking skills only come naturally, there are ways to develop them. There are certain rules one can follow to transform that cold-call into a warm-call. This may come as a shock to people who believe that networking for the sake of networking must be discouraged. But the fact remains that it’s primarily through these skills that one can create an instantaneous impact in the crucial five minutes of conversation one has with that big-shot at a coffee session.
For keeping this simple, let’s call our star networker Mr. EasyConnect and his sounding board Mr. PureBiz. How do you connect without sounding like a schmooze. The key is to connect at an emotional level. One of the easiest ways is to divert the conversation towards likes and dislikes. It would give you a fair enough idea of what Mr. PureBiz likes and would throw open wide an area for future conversations. The scene is set.
Mr. PureBiz has given you a brief tally of his career progression and his job responsibilities. Mr. EasyConnect chips in by asking what he likes doing in his leisure time. Bingo! Here’s some common ground to explore together. Mr. PureBiz loves listening to metal music and coincidentally Mr. EasyConnect also has an interest in it. They have a heart-to-heart talk on the inventors of metal, how soothing it is to get lost in a world of music at the end of each day and how frustrating it was to see Metallica cancel their concert in Delhi at the last minute. At the end of the five minutes dialogue,
Mr. EasyConnect has weasled his way into Mr. PureBiz’s memory and is thinking of when to follow-up with him next. Mr. PureBiz is smiling his way out as he reminisces the feel-good factor this guy named EasyConnect generated in his consciousness. But be sure to mention your own achievements at a suitable point in the conversation without sounding like you are boasting.
So you manage to create a good first impression. What next? It’s important to build trust and credibility right from the beginning. Send a follow-up email to thank Mr. PureBiz. Now you are there both in his memory and in his inbox! Be sure to mention where you met and one key take-away from the interesting conversation you had with him.
While the conversation lasts, maintain eye contact. Look into his eyes, give him all your attention. Let your eyes do the talking. Let them reflect your admiration for Mr. PureBiz. Make sure you stand by your own convictions though without trying to overtly please him, or you’ll end up coming across as a smooth-talker. Last but not the least, you should have a loose but firm handshake. It reflects upon your character and your confidence level. It says ‘I am a take control, take charge’ guy without being seen as dominating.
Now, let’s explore the scenario wherein you don’t find any common interests. In such scenarios it’s always best to be prepared in advance. Prior to the meeting, find out who’s going to be there. Research their LinkedIn profiles, check their Facebook page. This’ll give you a fair enough idea of what the person has done in the past, what specific fields he has explored, also which clubs he’s a member of. Read, google, browse and read again. You should be good to go with atleast one ice-breaker topic for each person you want to connect with.
This’ll turn most of your introduction meetings into an invitation for further conversations. Build relationships before you need them.
Ipseeta is an electrical engineer by education, she loves exploring concepts and technologies that aim at drastically improving the performance of current software technology. She has numerous research papers to her credit. She is leading an initiative to redesign the website for Aarambh, an NGO based in Mumbai, to help generate more sponsorships and donations.
Read the remaining two posts in the series:
Post 2: Business networking tips: Take the relationship to the next level
Post 3: Business networking tips: Keeping the relationships warm