Five Networking Conversations You Need to Have Before 2016 Ends

I’ve been speaking and training on networking for years, and in all that time, I’ve only met a handful of people who feel they really have their hands fully around it.

Most people sullenly acknowledge that having better professional relationships would help, but stress they just don’t have the time or attention.

In fact, now that we’re getting close to the end of the year, I’ve already started to hear the shrill litany of the perennial procrastinators:

“I’ll totally get started with that on January 1st!”

Maybe your New Year’s Resolution track record is solid, but I’ve found most of us don’t necessarily have better results when we push our goals off into the future.

There is hope!

You don’t have to wait to improve your network. You can do it right now.

Here are five conversations to have in the fourth quarter that will benefit your career now and in the future.

And if you think you don’t have time, remember there are 1,824 hours between today and December 31st.

I think you can squeeze a few 45-minute coffee conversations in there somewhere.

Here are the top five conversation partners, to get you started.

Your Boss

Sure, you meet with your boss all the time, but not for networking.

Ask to have some dedicated one-on-one time with your boss for coffee or lunch.

You can even impress her by asking for a pre-work coffee so it doesn’t infringe on work time.

The goal isn’t to wheedle into their good graces, or brown-nose.

It is to take some time to find out what she is thinking about professionally.

Your boss has a valuable perspective, and it can be helpful to tap into their expertise.

Some good questions to ask:

  • What projects are you excited about that are coming down the line?
  • What skills and capabilities do you think will grow in importance next year?
  • How can I help you in 2017?

A Successful Colleague

It might be the recognized veteran or the up-and-coming star, but reach out and get to know them beyond their job title.

You can only connect so much in a staff meeting.

It’s a cliché (a true one) that successful people surround themselves with other successful people.

Find out where they put their attention and energy, and you’ll walk away with some great ideas for your own work.

And there’s a good chance that you can reciprocate with some ideas of your own.

A few great questions:

  • What has been your biggest win lately?
  • Where do you think you’ll put your focus in the next six months?
  • How can I help you in 2017?

Your Favorite Customer

There’s nothing wrong with networking with people you like.

Doesn’t it make sense to spend time with the people you enjoy?

Whether it’s an external company client, or someone that you work to support internally, take the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with them.

Not only will it make your regular interactions more effective and efficient, but it will give you insight into what’s important to them so you can find long-term opportunities to serve them.

Start with these questions:

  1. What new trends are interesting to you?
  2. What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
  3. How can I help you in 2017?

 An Amenable Competitor

It’s easy to think of the world as a zero-sum game, but except in a very few cases, collaboration leads to a bigger pie for everyone.

You don’t have to become best friends or give away all of the company secrets, but it makes sense that someone who does something similar will be able to understand the ups and downs of your role.

Life is too short to be paranoid.

Take the first step to creating rapport with the other people in your sphere of influence.

A few simple inquiries:

  • What do you think your biggest opportunities are in 2017?
  • What are you trying to get better at?
  • How can I help you in 2017?

Someone in a Totally Different Field

It’s too easy to put career blinders on.

You can wake up one day and realize everyone you interact with is in the same field and thinks about things the same ways.

Getting new and fresh ideas and perspectives is always valuable.

If you are an engineer, reach out to your professional musician neighbor.

If you’re a graphic designer, reach out to your old roommate who is a computer coder.

It will be invigorating, insight-provoking, and probably a lot of fun.

Ask them:

  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • Where do you see your field in three years?
  • How can I help you in 2017?

The Networking Secret

The trick to all of these conversations? 

Go in with an open agenda and focus on finding out about the person on the other side of the table.

If you spend your time looking for ways to help them, you’ll be surprised at how much they’ll want to help you.

image credit: Pexels

David J.P. Fisher

David J.P. Fisher (D. Fish) is a speaker, business coach, and best-selling author. He combines nuanced strategy and real-world tactics to help professionals become more effective, efficient, and happy.

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