by Therese M. Heeg
Now is the time to make authentic connections – 5 Powerful Steps
When human beings experience chaos, the natural reaction is to seek safety. For many of us, that means closing our circle, but I believe now is the time to reach out to others, to rely on others – to be inspired and – to inspire others. In this article, I share the steps you can take to make authentic connections that will help you and others design the future one conversation at a time.
In my first article in this series, I shared the many reasons to reach out during this time instead of pulling inward.
In this article, I share how to step out of uncertainty and explore the future through networking conversations. Over the years, I learned the power of reaching out firsthand and went from being an introvert to a networking convert.
I pushed myself to make connections on a regular basis. Thankfully, all of those wonderful conversations have led me to the work I love. I know one thing for sure: authentic connections create possibilities. Here is how to get started.
5 Steps to Create Authentic Connections
Focus on what you know and what you don’t know.
What do you know about you or your business? What don’t you know?What might you want to learn from others?
For example, I am clear about the value I have been adding to organizations up until Covid-19. Now, I am exploring my options and gaining input on what that might look like going forward.
- What are the emerging, critical business needs during and beyond the pandemic?
- How might I need to communicate differently with clients and potential clients during this time?
- Where do I need to show up in this virtual world of work?
These are all things I can discuss with my competitors and with other colleagues. That is what I am doing now during this challenging time and it is helping me make better decisions while making new connections.
Explore options – be a learner.
Read articles in your industry or profession. Join groups and follow thought leaders on social media. Take free webinars to see what others are doing in your field. Narrow down your interests, do some research, then share what you are learning with others by following Step 3.
One of the most natural ways to get started is to connect with people already in your network – family, friends or neighbors. With LinkedIn, it is also possible to reach out to people you have never met before.
Now here is the tricky part for some people – you must be vulnerable enough to tell people that you are exploring options for the future, but you don’t have all the answers.
If you completed Step 2, you will be able to share a couple of options you are considering and even share what you are learning. Your proactive approach will inspire others. They will share their thoughts, their fears, their plans. You will do the same and then, you can expand your network, by asking who else might be willing to connect with you.
As this type of meaningful conversation becomes a habit, you will integrate it into the way you do business more naturally. By taking a genuine interest in others, you will make deeper connections wherever you go.
Here is one tip: DO NOT DISCOUNT ANYONE during this step. Don’t make assumptions about others. Everyone has a story. Be interested. Be respectful. Be open. And watch what happens as you open up and begin to ask questions and share what you are learning.
In the book Networking for People Who Hate Networking, Devora Zack points out that networking isn’t about collecting business cards. It is an opportunity to create meaningful connections through “listening, focus, and depth.” Listening to stories of how other people have managed their life and career during this pandemic, how they have made career transitions in the past, or faced a business challenge can benefit you and the person sharing their story.
As you listen to others, you can learn what worked and what didn’t. You can ask for feedback and advice and also get referrals to people in their network.
By listening, you can also be a resource to others. Listen for what is important to them and when you follow up on your meeting, share ideas and information you have been gathering along the way.
Let go of the need for a specific outcome.
Networking is not a means to an end. It is a mutual learning process. By letting go of the need for a specific outcome, you will stay in a learning mode, trust the process and be seen as a powerful, proactive professional.
Your authenticity will inspire others and new opportunities will be created. At the same time, you will gain clarity about your next step, so you can make better decisions and create the rewarding future that you deserve.
Therese Heeg is The Networking Coach. She has worked with global coaching and talent development firms and currently operates her own business in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, helping individuals and organizations make better choices and build better relationships so they can enjoy their work and life. Set up a time to network with her here: https://ThereseHeeg.as.me/ or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.