Building a successful career has shifted from just having the necessary skills.
If you have great skills and the right audience that needs it to make you great knows nothing about it, how does that help?
The solution is to cultivate the habit for and become viral in building professional relationships.
When building professional relationships or building professional connections, it’s important not to make the mistake of diverting from ‘connecting’ to ‘selling’ at the initial stage. It’s easier to connect with a stranger than to sell to a stranger.
In my practice, I have come to learn the importance of valuing people chiefly for who they are as individuals. The opposite of this is to engage people solely because there’s something you want to get from them.
When I started my career, one of my basic business priorities was to personally ‘connect’ with my clients. This saw me building relationships with customers. Being an amateur professional or venturer then, I didn’t know much of what could result from that commitment, aside the innocent interest to be closer to my clients, beyond business dealings. Over the years, I have experienced viral instances where my clients become actively involved in building for me huge customers network, offering ‘unsolicited’ referrals that fetches huge revenues. I refer to it as unsolicited because, at first, I was not expecting it nor was that part of the expected end product of my ‘strategy’.
So, it’s my customers who initially made me saw the huge potential of leveraging on my relationship with them to gain more business, increase performance and market share. I merely consolidated on the practice. I have been getting more business through referrals from my customers. I’d later learn that this practice has been very effective for modern businesses for a long time now.
What Do You Aim for When You Want to Connect With People?
Connecting with people means you are the one giving attention. Now, that is where the challenge lies. And the reason is simple: from infancy, we’re accustomed to expecting attention from others. We want to be seen, noticed, pampered, praised, fancied, and the list goes on. But when it’s about noticing others, it’s disgusting? And even when we seem to really ‘praise’ other people’s work or take notice of them, it’s an invitation for a quick payback from them. This makes it difficult for us to work on really building genuine connection with people.
Farther beyond this level is a deliberate commitment to having sincere interest in what the other person does. What is it about the person’s work, method, hobby, etc that’s exciting? Don’t you think it’s worth talking about? Instead of spending time, fruitlessly talking about what you can do or what you do, to a listener who’d rather wish he/she be spared those details, why not spend the time discussing about the unique things (work, life, projects or hobby) of or about the person that’s interesting?
I had the pleasure of taking particular likeness for the paintings on the walls of an institution to which I was posted sometime ago. There was something about them which, although they were simple paintings, it however made them beautiful. When I got to meet the artist in person, it naturally happened that my conversation with him, initially centered on art (paintings and drawings) which was his professional practice. As we went on talking, it naturally happened that we shared lots of common passion in music, entrepreneurship, social (community) services, etc. These other areas equally became subjects of our discussions then, and in subsequent interactions. We became very good friends and over time, executed projects which earned him and I professional accolades.
Notice that it all started because I took genuine interest and talked about things that matter to him. From there, we realized we share some common passions. How would it have been if I had been telling him about me and what I do? Well, the same way you’d not be interested in a stranger telling you about themselves is the same way he’d have been disgusted by by disturbing his peace with tales of myself. But since I liked what he does and was telling him about himself, something he treasures, we readily connected.
How to Apply This in Your Career
Develop passion for taking an interest in the works of people in your field of interest/ Profession. Find time to discuss their works, achievements and projects. Lots of people want to talk about these things with people they consider genuine. And it makes everyone happy to talk about what they cherish. Be the happy learner. Learn and don’t compromise trust. When at a future time you have need of professional assistance to accomplish an important project or to make a needful professional move, the ease with which you get the right ‘heads’ to work in your favor will be a well earned reward for your labor of building professional network and genuinely taking interest in those that will matter in your career.
Enough of blaming people or your family background as the cause of your not having the connections you need to help you in your career. Build it. Start by giving relevant attention and making useful contributions in people’s lives. And when you have firmly developed a thriving connection with an individual, that will be time to easily ‘sell’ to him/her.