Building meaningful connections professionally and personally is a passion point for me. And, if anything, navigating the pandemic has demonstrated how vital relationship-building is in our lives.
For more than a decade, I’ve been a member of the Detroit Economic Club (DEC). I served on DEC’s Young Leader Board for a 3-year term and volunteered with the reception committee since 2015. Through my experience at the DEC and other thoughtful networking opportunities, I’ve developed three practices that help me foster new relationships and deepen existing ones.
Create Dedicated Time
A wise person once told me, the time spent networking and building meaningful connections is like planting seeds. The only way to grow the seeds you plant through networking is to make time to connect. Scheduling time to check in and have meaningful touchpoints is key to building trust. Each week I protect a block of time on my calendar to reflect on connections from the week and plan on how I will proactively engage and provide value to my network in the weeks ahead. Additionally, I code time dedicated to networking in a specific color (orange!) on my calendar as a visual reminder that I need to spend time cultivating my garden every week.
Start With Something Relatable
In my experience, starting a dialogue around a relatable topic often leads to more interesting conversations. “What’s your work environment right now?” is a timely subject that has led to some robust conversations since the onset of the pandemic. Stratacomm has adopted a “work from anywhere” policy which allows me to work from home most days or enjoy the new Stratacomm office in Bingham Farms when I want a change of scenery. It’s been fun to share this approach in conversations while learning how different companies and individuals navigate where employees work in today’s dynamic environment. This topic often leads to learning more about the individual’s role, responsibilities, and potential collaboration opportunities.
Identify Opportunities to Make Big Feel Small
Walking into an expansive networking event or joining a large virtual meet-up is intimidating. Over the years, I’ve discovered the fastest way to build connections is to identify an opportunity to get to know a subset of individuals within the larger organization or event. For me, this has been through volunteering on committees or raising my hand to lead a breakout session in a virtual meet-up. Another option to make big feel small is to ask your network where they’re spending their time. If they belong to an organization or volunteer group that interests you, ask them to tag along to see what it is all about and gain an introduction or two. So, when you show up on your own next time, there are more seeds planted in this new garden.
Meaningful relationship-building is a commitment to yourself and others. By carving out dedicated time to network, preparing for an engagement with more relatable discussion topics and finding ways to make the big feel less intimidating, I’m sure you’ll experience the many benefits of having a strong and fruitful network. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, #TeamStratacomm suggests the DEC, PRSA Detroit, PRSA District of Columbia, IABC Detroit, Washington Women in Public Relations, or a collegiate alumni association event. Attend a virtual or in-person event (whatever works best for you) with a colleague or volunteer for a committee—you never know where it will take you!
Kristin Tyll is the managing director of Stratacomm’s Detroit office and a senior partner at the agency.