When is the last time you made a meaningful connection? Last Friday, at our Women in Leadership (WIL) meeting Robin Brown, CIO North America Protein at Cargill and Jackie Hartman, Business Relationship Manager at Cargill led an engaging discussion on; Creating “Meaningful Connections” Is Not All About Your Job! A huge thank you to Cargill for hosting our group!  

Networking is a broad and overused term. Are you networking, or are you creating meaningful connections? Meaningful connections can be made at your current job, in your community, with your neighbors, or even your family. Robin and Jackie started the discussion by asking for the group to differentiate between meaningful connections and networking.  When they asked us to define meaningful connections, the group mentioned; deeper connections, long-term, and collaboration. As we defined networking, the group stated; more objective or goal focused, one-sided, short-term, and can feel more transactional.  

The first step in approaching networking meetings should be to determine the outcomes you are seeking. You should prepare an agenda and research the professional and company prior to the meeting. Be sure to ask yourself, what’s in it for them?  

Robin and Jackie provided us with a quick outline of how you could plan your meeting. Remember that this is just an outline, and you should make the conversation flow as natural as you can.  

  • Build common ground   
  • State the purpose of your meeting   
  • One-minute career summary   
  • Five questions that are relevant to your meeting purpose   
  • Ask for two other connections   
  • Offer something meaningful to them   
  • Close by recapping actions and thanking them for their time  

As we wrapped up the meeting, Robin and Jackie left us thinking about our plan and approach moving forward. They encouraged us to foster meaningful connections with a purpose. Whether that be expanding your network, looking for your next role, or to helping others. Everyone should create their Board of Directors who is there to help you guide you and give feedback through your journey. Establish who will you connect with and how often you plan to connect. They highlighted the importance of paying attention to how you show up, including your body language, presence, and eye contact. Their final piece of advice was to define goals over the next few years, such as a new job, next level in your career, retirement, and mentorship.   

Everyone should be making meaningful connections; although there is no cookie cutter approach to how you go about making these connections. Whether you have already been doing this, or have never done it, it’s never too late to start. We can always be striving to be better. If you were unable to attend this meeting, you can find the slide deck, here.