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There is something very powerful about sharing a meal with someone who you are trying to build a connection with. It could be a new colleague, a new boss, a supplier, a customer or internal client, a new networking connection, or a complete stranger. Adding food or beverage to the networking experience someone changes things for the better. People seem to become more open and relaxed. The conversation flows a little more natural. The mood shifts from formal and more informal (although you always want to be on your best professional behavior).
I have observed that when food or beverage is served, people are less likely to be tied up with technology. They shift their attention to focus on the people and goodies before them.
Of course, table manners come into play when food and beverage is introduced during networking gatherings and business meetings. You’ll want to brush up on basic etiquette and practice these soft skills. If you chew and talk with your mouth open, you may be turning people off quickly and permanently.
I remember once meeting a businesswoman for networking coffee at the Cheesecake Factory. It was 3pm in the afternoon and neither of us could resist the tempting menu of cheesecake slices they offered. We ended up splitting one. It was a bold move to literally share a meal even though we barely even knew each other before that meeting. But guess what happened? Our connection was fast-tracked with this shared experience. Sweet!
Five Ways to Put This Networking Tip Into Action
Networking is a lot like gardening. You are constantly planting seeds. A seed can be an idea shared, feedback given, a new connection offered, or anything that gets people thinking and moving in the right direction. Of course, not all planted seeds will sprout. Some seeds fall on rocky, barren soil while other seeds wither and die. It is not your job to worry about whether or not the seed will take hold. Your job, as a motivated and generous networker, is just to keep planting seeds every single day.
The magic of networking will be revealed to you when you least expect it when one of your many planted seeds takes root and begins to grow. You will do your best to water the seeds you plant by staying in touch with people that you meet professionally and personally. You will do that through your discipline practice of networking follow up.
Of course, you can’t control how other people will respond to you. Through no fault of your own, some people in your network have difficulty managing the demands of networking and relationship building. The secret to your success is that you keep planting seeds.
I suggest planting three seeds a day. What does a seed planting look like from a networking point of view?
It doesn’t matter how or what you do or even if people acknowledge you for it. Just keep planting seeds. Three a day, every day. It will build momentum and create joy and OPPORTUNITY in your career and life!
LinkedIn is a great social media platform for you to build your professional network. It is also a great vehicle to position you more strategically for what you want to be doing in the future, once you graduate from college. LinkedIn is a place where you can showcase not only your work experience but your personal brand. Many professionals (early career and established career) are underutilizing LinkedIn as a resource. In many ways, they have left their personal brand to chance. Sadly, it shows on LinkedIn.
Not true of three of our brave volunteers of the Lockheed Martin Women in Computer Science summer internship program. Natalie Tilson, Emily P. Costello, and Kiersten Pingel McConnell to the challenge and did the work to more effectively position themselves and showcase their personal brands on LinkedIn. In less than one week, they made changes to their LinkedIn profile that will enable them to be seen in a more professional context. Incorporating some of the strategies and ideas from the book, Defining You: How smart professionals craft the answers to: Who Are You? What Do You Do? and How Can You Help Me.
Check out their LinkedIn profiles. Pay attention to their photo and background art, headline below their names, ABOUT section, and custom/shortened URL. They made all these changes intentionally!
Kathy has kindly offered her book Defining You to our cohort group for free for a limited time. You can download the free PDF-reader copy of Defining You at this password protected webpage.The password is Confidence. This offer will expire at midnight on August 5, 2019 so get it while it’s free.
We asked each of our volunteers to give us advice that we could pass on. “What ONE THING would you recommend your peers in the Women in Computer Science intern program at Lockheed Martin take action on in the next 30 days in order to build/manage their personal brands and position themselves on LinkedIn?” Here’s what they had to say after their experience volunteering for the recent webinar with Kathy:
“Being a very visual person, I would definitely suggest ensuring that the profile picture and background art represent what you want people to see from you on a first impression. It allows room for a bit of expression, and it’s a great place to show a little bit of who you are and how that might drive your work! Thank you again for setting this up; I didn’t realize how much help I did need!”~ Emily Costello AMMM Software Development Intern, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Corporation, Marietta, GA
“The one thing that I would recommend to my fellow women in computer science program interns is to completely update and revamp their profile. Make sure that any outdated information is gone, and only have relevant information on there for people to see. Also, making sure that your page is aesthetic and fits your personal style while staying professional I think is a great thing to do as well.” ~ Kiersten Pingel McConnell, Software Engineering Intern at Lockheed Martin, Innovation Lab in Dallas,Texas
“My advice for building/managing your personal brand is: Make sure you include your passion, personality, and goals into your brand, even in your verbal elevator speech. This way when you are writing your resume or updating LinkedIn, it is natural and demonstrates the “whole” you.” ~ Natalie Tilson, Software Operations Intern at Lockheed Martin, and Advocate for Women & Children in STEM
Your professional network is a reflection of your sphere of influence. It is your social capital and will allow you to make good things happen in your career and business. You can also use your social capital to help others achieve their goals and dreams. Just like financial capital (aka money), you need to diversify your social capital to reduce risk and increase opportunity. You also need to lend and borrow your social capital often.
What does diversifying your network look like? It means that you know and are connected to people who are different than you.
It is a natural human tendency to hang out with people who are just like us. We feel more comfortable with people who share similar interests and work in similar fields as we do. But if we limit our networking to only “look-a-likes,” we end up building a homogeneous community that potential limits our sphere of influence. In your networking practice, you’ll want to enjoy the immediate and long-term benefits that diversity and inclusion can offer.
Are you up for a challenge this week? Intentionally add diversity to your LinkedIn network by connecting with four (4) new people including someone from a different country, industry, professional discipline, generation, or gender.
As you experienced during the recent Summer Summit at Lockheed Martin, you can generate a more interesting conversation if you ask more interesting questions. No need to stick with the same old, boring, expected questions, like “What do you do for a living?” or “Where are you from?” or “What do you do at Lockheed Martin.” Consider being a big bolder and jumping in with one of these gutsier questions:
Borrowing from the excellent questions that some of you submitted for the Panel Discussion, try out these questions when you are networking with other people at Lockheed Martin during your internship:
Hungry for more?
Check out this Guide to Networking Conversation Starters listing more than 40 questions that you could experiment with. Available free in the Open Vault (along with 99 other free resources).
Got a good one? If you would like to submit a conversation starting question to add to the above guide, please send me an email – Kathy@AmericasMarketingMotivator.com . I’d love to hear what your experience was in using your question in a networking situation. Tell me more about your networking experiment.