How to Start Building Professional Relationships
So, you are interested in building professional relationships? The following article can be used as a guide to not only review the “how” of building connections, but also to think about “why” you should.
To get the most out of this article, take the time to think through each set of questions and arrive at your own answers. Use the attached prompts, if helpful. Follow up with with any additional questions or required clarification – you can find me on Twitter @OakCityCRE or on LinkedIn.
I have also provided some of my own insights as to what the answer might be. In the last section I set out next steps and questions that might help keep the conversation going.
Contact Info Is A Good Sign
When building a professional relationship starting with a warm introduction from a mutual connection is helpful, but not required. The following ideas absolutely work for a cold outreach. For the benefit of this article, let’s assume you have a warm intro our your “contact” has given you their business card or contact info.
My assumption is that they gave you their information because they want to hear from you. They may be curious about what you want to ask them, they may want to learn more about you, or they may be interested in helping you or doing business together. No matter the reason, it seems they already know the great power of building professional relationships. The more people they know, the more helpful they can be.
They gave you permission to reach out, which won’t always be the case. Often as you’re building a network, you’re reaching out cold. You’ve already gotten over the first major hurdle. Congratulations, they want to hear from you.
It All Starts With “Why”
In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, with 57 million views, he explains how understanding you “why” should be what drives you. Knowing your “why” gives clarity to the “what” and the “how” parts. You mentioned this person does work that interests you. Why? Take a few minutes to brainstorm on the following:
- Why are you specifically interested in their work?
- Why are you interested in those aspects of their work or what they’re doing?
- Why do you want to make the connection?
- Why are you interested in building this relationship?
Building relationships and keeping up with people can be uncomfortable, even for me. Given my job in business development, it may be a bit of a surprise, but I get nervous and uncomfortable speaking with people all of the time. I recommend writing down the answers to these questions. When you know the answers, you have some fuel to see through the challenging parts of the process.
When I am in uncomfortable situations putting myself “out there”, what gets me through the uncomfortable parts is that I know what’s on the other end. I know what the reward is. I know why I’m putting myself out there. I’ve seen the benefits of putting in the effort to build relationships pay off time and time again. After years of relationship building, I’d like to think I know what I’m doing, which helps me work through the uncomfortable intermediate steps. You will get there too; you just have to start and keep at it. To paraphrase a Chinese Proverb: “The best time to start building professional connections was 10-years ago, the second best time is today.”
You’ve Done More Than You Think
My sense is you know very well how you build relationships. These skills are often not formally taught in school or elsewhere, but you have certainly built some relationships. You may not have built many professional relationships, but my guess is that you’ve already built plenty of successful non-professional relationships.
I want you to sit down and think about how you typically build relationships. What do you do? What are the individual steps? If you were teaching someone to build a relationship “your way” what would you teach them?
Do you spend time with someone? Do you give them attention? Do you show interest in that person? Are you kind to that person? Do you show up repeatedly for that person?
I think people often want to separate building a professional relationship from building a personal relationship, but I don’t see huge differences. You’ve already done more relationship building than you think and these skills translate into the professional realm.
A Quadrant Two Task
While professional relationship building is very important, it is not an urgent task. If you have a few minutes and don’t already know about it, google “Eisenhower Matrix”.
Relationship building is an important thing for you and for your career, but it’s not urgent. It’s not something you have to do today. If you don’t do it today, if you don’t do it next week, or next month, it’s not likely going to be a problem. If you never build relationships, however, you will have a problem. You will miss out on so much opportunity in life.
With Important/Non-urgent tasks — quadrant two in the Eisenhower Matrix — it’s critical to plan them and create a sense of urgency if you want to get them done.
The planning part is straight forward. Start off by adding a 30-minute block of “relationship building” time to your calendar every week. Commit to the time now, you can always add more time later or change up your “system”, but commit now. Right now. I will wait here while you set the appointment on your calendar…
Urgency: Make “Someday” Start Today
Creating a sense of urgency is a bit different. One way to increase the sense of urgency is to think about what happens if you don’t do something. Take a few minutes to think about that question: What happens if you don’t reach out?
Most likely, you’re going to miss an opportunity to build a single relationship. You also may not learn some new information or you may not grow a specific skill. You may not grow the skill of knowing how to build professional relationships comfortably and effectively. Think about all the missed opportunities in the next 40 years of your career that you’re going to miss out on if you never start down this path.
Do you want to miss out on those opportunities? If not, you will likely be able to “see yourself” starting to build relationships “someday” (serious air quotes of sarcasm there). Maybe “someday” is when you have a different job title, or when you are older, or when you have more experience the dreaded “when you have more time”. Spoiler alert: we all have the same 24-hours in a day.
Think about all the things you’ll miss by putting it off. What will happen if you never reach out? What will happen if you don’t build that skill forever? Can you use those potential losses as fuel to get you to move forward?
If you know it’s important to do and you know you’re going to get to the starting part eventually, and you know you will eventually see the benefits, why not start today?
F.E.A.R. = Future Events Already Ruined
There is one last thought exercise to cap this off. Again, it might help to write down your answers. The final question is this: what is the worst thing that’s going to happen if you reach out to this person? Write down what you think will be the absolute worst thing that’s going to happen.
My guess is nobody’s going to die. My guess is nobody’s going to be physically hurt. My guess is nothing bad will actually happen. The worst thing that might happen is they don’t respond. Maybe things go so bad that they never speak to you again. Well guess what? There are billions of people on this planet that you’re never going to talk to again. You are never going to speak to 99.986% of the world. So, if there’s one more person who never speaks to you again, that’s really not that big of a deal. In this case the “pain” of not doing it probably outweighs the potential “pain” of doing it.
Fear is mostly mental, future events already ruined.
I would honestly truly love to hear from you. Please reach out with any thoughts or questions.
What do you think is the next step that you can do? What is the next action that you can take to get you one step closer to your goal of building professional relationships? Think about what that next step is going to be and then think about a time that you can and will have it done.
In addition to the individual next steps, what is the biggest hurdle in your way? What will keep you from that next step, keep you from building this relationship?
Thank you for taking the time to read through this. I’m happy to help in any way that I can. Just remember to think about why you are making connections, plan your next steps, block out the time, the “worst case” isn’t that bad, create a sense of urgency, and start today.
Professional Connection Building Motivation Prompts:
Why do you want to make the connection?
What is the worst that can happen?
If you were teaching someone how to build relationships “your way”, what would you teach them?
Why will happen if you never build connections?
How much time will you commit and when will you schedule it?
Jed Byrne loves Raleigh, NC, especially its people and places. He tries to engage with both on a daily basis. Jed tweets about spaces and places at @Oakcitycre, hosts the Dirt NC podcast, and sends a weekly development newsletter through www.OakCityCRE.com. He always enjoys connecting with new people, so reach out on social or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
This article originally appeared at: https://oakcitycre.medium.com/how-to-start-building-professional-relationships-270779688a22
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