A few months back I had coffee with an individual who I informally met at a leadership event. This individual was interested in joining my organization and had invited me for a meeting to learn more and share her experience. During our conversation she did not appear to be at all prepared.
Not only did she have a difficult time articulating her experience, passions and interests concisely, she spent more time discussing her weekend and recent break up. While it may seem obvious that this is not the way to present yourself in a networking situation you might be surprised to learn how often I have interactions where the individual seems very unprepared for a conversation and/or does not appear to be considering the impression they want to leave behind.
It has taken me a number of years to realize that every conversation we have is an opportunity – an opportunity to make a great first impression, an opportunity to learn something new, an opportunity to find that next manager, mentor, sponsor or friend.
Over the past 9 months I have had the chance to research and speak on the importance of having a strong personal brand – one that you’re conscious about developing as a means to support your professional and personal success. Through this work it has become evident to me how many other people are not thinking about the impressions they are leaving, nor utilizing the opportunities they have to connect with others to their full advantage. As a result of this I started to think about how your brand is enhanced or diluted in every interaction. Because your network is based on the impression you make with others, using every opportunity to build your desired impression and expand your network is critical.
Here are 5 key tips to making the most of every interaction:
- Be genuine – no one wants to interact with someone pretending they are someone they are not and most people can smell a fake a mile away.
- Know who you are and what you stand for – in every conversation there is a chance to make an impression. Be clear who you are, what you value and be able to articulate what impact you can make and what you aspire to. This will differentiate you from others.
- Be intentional – what is the impression you want to make? As mentioned more times then I wish I walk away from conversations wondering if the other individual has any idea as to the impression they have just left with me. Think about how you want to show up to the other individual and plan for this in advance.
- Be considerate – considerate of the other person’s time, show up on time and conclude on time, be open to their ideas and their opinions.
- Be curious – treat every conversation as an opportunity to learn something new from someone else. By being interested and asking good questions you form a good impression with the other person and you will likely learn something new that will benefit you in the future.
Had the individual in my story above followed these tips I believe our conversation and the events following that conversation could have turned out quite differently.
So remember to use every conversation to enhance your brand and expand your network. Whether the conversation is just saying hello to someone you don’t know in the hallway or whether it is with your CEO, make that interaction count. Networks are built on brands and reputation and if you have a strong brand and use the many opportunities that present themselves to you each day you will quickly see the opportunities that are out there waiting for you.
Follow Tracey on Twitter: @Tracey_Arnish