Want to build a solid network or improve your networking skills? Then, get a conversation going! The standard elevator pitch might be quick and painless, but it doesn’t build a meaningful connection, which is what successful networking is all about.

A strong professional network involves building and maintaining relationships with all types of people so, instead of a quick meeting and a handshake, try having a conversation with someone new. Be genuinely curious and interested in their work and career. You may find you have something in common and it could be the start of a great connection. Consider these questions to help you get the conversation started (from Jill Scheifelbein’s book “Dynamic Communication”):

Business-oriented questions:
-How did you get started in the industry?
-Why do you love what you do?
-How do you spend your time?
-What’s your favorite type of client to work with?
-What’s your favorite type of problem to solve?
-How do you celebrate successes?

Use these questions to help get a conversation started and be sure to listen to the answers. A strong network is really a two-way street so be sure you know what value you bring to the relationship, as well. Successful networking results in solid relationships between people who may be able to help each other’s careers because they know, like, and trust each other. Strong networks are built one conversation at a time.

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