Knowing that making meaningful first connections with others can be tough with a myriad of networking opportunities, referrals, and the busy lives many of us live, the Starfish Impact team put together the following five elements that can help ensure a successful first connection, and make relationship building worth your time.
- Trust. How do you trust someone you don’t know? Trust is a key element of a meaningful first connection in that you need to trust that the person across from the table is sincere and that you can speak candidly with them. If you are skeptical about their motives, or being able to share with them, you set the conversation at an immediate disadvantage.
- Openness. Following trust is the ability to be open with your fellow network builder. If you are interested in a job at the connection’s company and want to ask them about it, the only way the meeting is valuable is if you actually ask about it. It’s entirely appropriate to preface the conversation with phrases like, ‘confidentially speaking’, ‘off the record’, or ‘I’d like to share privately with you…’ to be clear that you want to speak openly.
- Clear statement of position. This often takes the form of ‘this is where I am in my career, this is the challenge I’m having, and this is what I’m looking for’. It is important to walk into and then away from a first time coffee or lunch meeting understanding why both parties are looking to connect and build a relationship. We suggest constructing a 20 second statement that summarizes where you are, and why you are talking to the person, that makes it very clear what your positioning is.
- A personal share. We have found this element to be the one that makes the connection memorable. When you share a personal element about yourself – a recent travel location, favorite restaurant, or even a story about your beloved pet – we find that it makes the person across the table more empathetic, and increases the connection. We don’t recommend over sharing here though, and describe this as the one update you might give your grandmother or best friend the next time you call her.
- Be a resource. Even more powerful is finding an opportunity to help the other person. Listen carefully, and ask questions related to the other person’s interests, business goals, etc. and if possible, find an opportunity to help your new friend through another connection, resource or idea. I have recently found myself referring everything from doctors to help solve a complicated medical issue to a new friend who is going through a similar situation as a mother (and who is also a great professional connection). When done genuinely and with no need for reciprocity, it feels great to support someone else and is usually much appreciated by the recipient.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Starfish Impact approaches real connections and networking building, check outPurpose Driven Connections.
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