I have a million things to do. I’m a wife, mom to a 1 year old thunderbolt of energy, friend, and entrepreneur. I don’t have room for stupid things that waste my valuable time. My husband made a comment the other day about doing something in our “free time.” I laughed so hard I almost gave myself a hernia. Free time is for other people.
Not only am I crazy busy, I’m lazy. If something isn’t going to help me grow or give me a great ROI, I won’t do it. I want to invest my time in things that work like a well-oiled machine. Find valuable tools, test them, and then hold onto the winners for dear life. That’s my strategy. Sketchy shortcuts don’t work for me. I want high quality results the first time.
Like I said, I’m lazy. But it’s working for me in a big way.
When it comes to building a career, establishing genuine relationships is crucial to the success of you and your brand. Let’s face it, if nobody knows you exist, how will they know how awesome you are? (Spoiler alert: they won’t.)
Obviously then, the strategies for making strong connections with others are must-haves, but how do you dive in?
Think of your faithful coffee maker. You fill it up, set the timer, and that liquid gold auto-brews on time like clockwork. It’s dependable and it produces epic results you can count on (let’s be real, coffee is #life). The strategies for building genuine connections for your career are no different.
Trying random tactics here and there only makes you frazzled and unorganized (aka NOT boss babe material). If you’re gonna skyrocket your career forward, you need a road map, and you need one quick. By strategically designing a plan for reaching out, engaging, and building momentum with new connections, you set yourself up for killer success. Having a solid plan to follow lets you sit back while the system you’ve created works for you.
But what kind of plan do you need? Where do you even start?
Don’t even worry girl, I got you. I’m gonna take you from frazzled to frickin’ connected so you can start owning your career dreams instead of living vicariously through those got-it-all girls in chick flicks (don’t deny it, we’ve all been there).
Ready? Let’s go.
Designing Your Custom Connection Plan
Decide Your Goal
I’m gonna make this super easy for you by giving you the answer: Your goal is to build strong, high-quality, genuine relationships with the people in your field. It’s that simple.
In business, genuine relationships are the most valuable treasure you can ever possess. High quality relationships educate you and make you a better human being. And yes, they open doors for you. People like to encourage, champion, and collaborate with those they like and trust. Your goal is to become someone who puts people at ease and gives value to those around you. When you make those around you better, it’s amazing how rich your life becomes too.
Evaluate Your Social Skills
The term “social skills” sounds super academic, but it just refers to the mindsets, behaviors and tools needed to form relationships and interact with others in society. If you’re going to be forming high quality relationships with people and have vibrant, unforgettable interactions with them, you’re gonna need to sharpen your social skills to A game level.
Take a good look at how you interact with others. Ask yourself these questions (maybe even ask the people who know you best for more insight), and take inventory of your social skills.
- When I’m talking to someone new, do I make them feel valued and at ease, or do I make it all about me?
- Am I a good active listener (understanding and participating in what someone is sharing, not just hearing)?
- Does my body language and facial expressions show that I’m engaged in what they’re saying, or do I look disinterested or distracted? Can I read body language and adapt to make sure I’m not crossing any boundaries?
- Do I engage in topics introduced by others or will I only talk about stuff I like?
Be honest with yourself, even if you don’t like the answer. Don’t beat yourself up – move forward instead!
Make A Plan To Improve
No one is perfect, so if you’ve uncovered some areas in which you need to improve, remember knowledge is power. Use it to learn and grow!
Start paying attention to the people around you who are great at interacting with others, and take cues from them. Be aware of how people react to your different behaviors, using that feedback to shape how you interact the next time. Even little changes can have a powerful effect, so don’t write something off – tweaking it may rock your world!
There are tons of resources out there for improving your connection skills, but if you’d like something that’s designed specifically for you as an ambitious woman, I’ve got you covered.
In “The Female Entrepreneur’s Ultimate Guide to Small Talk,” I walk you through every stage of interacting and conversing with others, step by step. Covering everything from walking in the door to what to do after you leave, it’s full of detailed explanations, real-world examples, tips, scripts and prompts.
This exclusive 36-page guide is your ticket to building real, powerful connections. Download it FREE. Seriously, it’s on me.
Play To Your Strengths
Finding what you’re already good at and leveraging it to build success separates the top performers from your average Jane.
Are you great at making people feel welcomed and included? Awesome. Make sure you’re using that talent to cement new relationships! If you’re an amazing listener, exercising that skill will help you grow deeper friendships quickly and build trust. Maybe you love to host parties or hang outs. That’s valuable too! Use your talent to bring people together in fun, unique ways that not only strengthen new connections, but grows great community as well.
No matter how “basic” a natural skill is, you can, without a doubt, use it as a powerful tool for building great relationships. Even something as simple as having a warm, welcoming smile can set you apart and draw people to you. Don’t be afraid to strut your stuff – it makes all the difference, sista.
Create Your Strategy
Now that you’ve identified what you need to improve, made a plan to do so, and armed yourself with your rockstar strengths, you’re ready to organize them into a killer strategy for genuinely connecting with others.
Start by making two lists. Old fashioned paper, your computer, or even a note on your phone will work – the important thing is to write it down.
List #1 is a compilation of the skills you know work for you already. For example, I can talk to new people pretty much wherever I’m at. I’m also great at reading people, being an active listener, and making people feel at ease. These all go under my tried-and-true skills list, which might look something like this.
- Striking up conversations w/ anyone, anywhere
- Reading people’s body language and subtext
- Active listening
- Putting people at ease and bringing them out of their shell
List #2 is made up of skills and strategies you’re still working on or that you’d like to try but haven’t yet. Include here the things you need to improve on (from the earlier exercise). You can also jot down ideas from articles you’ve read or advice given to you by mentors, etc. The goal is to create a general pool of ideas you can pull from. Here’s an example of how this list might look.
Strategies to Experiment With/Work On
- Sharing more about myself with new people
- Working personal tidbits into conversations to create points of connection
- Making more consistent eye contact during conversations
- Practice asking engaging questions to help me talk about things I’m not familiar with
- Following up after meeting someone
The more you grow, meet new people and learn, keep adding new ideas to List 2. Then, when you’re ready to add a new tool to your belt, pull one idea from this list and try it out for a week or two. Does it make you a more confident woman, stronger at connecting, and a better friend? Fast track that strategy to List #1. If not, hit that backspace button as fast as you can and move on to the next one.
Smart women know that they’re never done learning, and nowhere is this more applicable than here. Hold onto the best strategies, but be flexible and never stop experimenting and looking for new ways to genuinely connect with those around you.
Not every tactic will work with every person – different personalities call for different approaches! You’ll find that some paths of connection work well in some arenas, and others shine elsewhere. Be gracious and willing to go with the flow, because that’s just as powerful as having a plan.
You’ve taken inventory of your skills and you’ve designed a plan. Now what? It’s time to start looking for ways to use them. Don’t overthink this, it’s a lot easier than you think!
Think back to your goal – who are those people and where are they?
Let’s say your dream is to open a nanny agency. You’re going to want to be connected to working parents, as well as professionals who have influence with those parents and can recommend your services. Think school teachers or administrators, but think out of the box too, like pediatricians, swim schools, playgroups, etc. People have trusted advisors sprinkled throughout their tribes, so being able to spot the key players is essential to your success.
When you know who you’re looking for, it’s time to engage. It sounds super intense, but relax – it all comes down to being genuine and adding value!
How can you put yourself in situations where you’ll cross their path? Maybe you start attending certain meetups, or you start volunteering with a particular organization. Perhaps you volunteer to teach others a particular skill you’re good at. Consistently put yourself in situations where you can help others and show what you know, and people will start gravitating to you.
Establish yourself a key player who’s known for serving, adding massive value, and making the people around her better. Don’t just talk about how you can help people, actually do it and let them experience it first hand.
In a recent interview, Katie Burke (an executive at HubSpot) said, “the best form of networking is doing remarkable work any time you have the opportunity to do so. . . [they] didn’t have to guess whether I would work hard at HubSpot; [they] knew it from experience.” Wisdom like that is what sets top performers apart from those slugging by on the least amount of effort. Be the former, not the latter, and you’ll be astonished at how far you can go and what you can achieve!
Building Your Muscles
Trying something new once or twice isn’t gonna cut it – you have to consistently practice to master new skills so you can add them to your arsenal.
Make a commitment to practice your connection skills on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be with big shots or people in your field – flex your relationship muscles by interacting and connecting with anyone! I chat up cashiers in stores while I’m paying, baristas, the nurse at my OB’s office, even the guy who delivers my groceries. Every interaction is a chance to learn about people, and being observant and trying new things makes me a better conversationalist and a valuable and sought after connection.
“Natural ability” and easy, quick-to-apply hacks make for glamorous headlines, but the real secrets to success are the well-planned tools we drill into our beings with strong habits. You don’t get toned by messing around with weights a couple of times a month, you get your sexy dream body by eating right and pushing your body every single day.
Designing your custom strategy for connecting may not seem sexy. In fact, it takes work and an honest look at your skill set. Ramit Sethi, a leading entrepreneur, speaker and NYT bestselling author, calls these steps “unglamourous habits that. . . can shape [your] entire attitude, setting [you] up for success.” Don’t get distracted by flashy tricks. Commit to building a strong foundation, and you’ll build success that lasts.
Let’s do this, girlfriend!
If you want to be lazy, you gotta prep. Build your system, then let it work for you. Why waste your valuable time and effort wildly throwing cheap tricks around, desperately hoping they work? Being willing to do the hard work up front allows you to create a system that propels you forward into success instead of sitting back wishing success would happen to you.
When you can rely on tools you know will work without fail, it makes forming new connections virtually effortless. I don’t know about you, but I have a million other things demanding my attention, so having my Connection Plan locked and loaded is a serious lifesaver.
It takes a lot of work to be lazy. But guess what?
It’s totally worth it.