Bridging the Personal and Professional

Today’s Question:  How do you get to know someone through networking without getting too personal?

Many people prefer to keep business business and personal personal.  For me, I have a tough time separating the two as the various parts of my life are so intertwined.  And, yet, it makes sense that when we meet new contacts at events like networking receptions and conferences, we may want to keep conversation more in the professional realm – or at least very generically personal without overstepping.

My recommendation for these situations is to engage others by seeking to learn more about their business pursuits.  Consider these ideas:

  • Ask business-oriented questions. Questions like “How did you get involved in your industry?” or “What are you most proud of in your career?” or “What is most fun about your job?” all allow the person to respond in a way that is both personal and professional and allows you to learn more about them and their business.
  • Highlight market trends. Irrespective of the specific industry you are in, you can certainly find common ground with a new contact by talking about customer patterns, economic drivers, political realities.  Chances are that, even if you are in different lines of work, you can bond over consumer behaviors impacting your efforts.
  • Be ready with a story. One way to break the ice might be for you to share a story about a project that you recently worked on.  Your willingness to share more about what you do may incentivize your new contact to respond in kind.
  • Talk about business books or periodicals. It can be a lot of fun to discuss insights offered from a good read.  Some of my favorites that seems to come up again and again in business settings include Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and Susan Cain’s Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, among many, many others.
  • Don’t be afraid to get a little personal. While it makes sense that you might slow roll engaging in very personal subjects, be sure to allow your personality to come through, show ‘em who you are and to seek to learn about them as human beings – not just as professional automatons!  You never know how you might connect over shared hobbies and interests that go beyond your business responsibilities.

How have you been successful in bridging the personal and professional at networking events?  Please take a moment to share your experiences with the CLC Community.

2 thoughts to “Bridging the Personal and Professional”

  1. Your post made me recognize the bit of in-person networking I do starts on the personal side, where common interests in horses, politics, urban matters, create an easy bond around which to build more collaboration professionally and organically. I work with entrepreneurs around the belief that business and personal lives are inextricable. So just living my life and seeking connections where interesting has been also good for business! (This also is my advice for networking-phobes: choose venues and activities for connecting with prospects and clients around your genuine interests. You’ll be more authentic, feel more comfortable, and be remembered for something besides another golf game.) Every business relationship begins with that sense of connection. Connecting on a personal level is a terrific jump start.

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