Jasbina Ahluwalia NetIP (Network of Indian Professionals) Interview – How to Network in Any Setting
NetIP Spotlight: Live Your Potential is a monthly show featuring experts on trending topics.
“How to Network in Any Setting” Aditi Ramchandani interviews Jasbina Ahluwalia
Jasbina will discuss the following topics:
- How to make a positive, lasting first impression
- How to initially approach and follow up with senior executives
- Value-adding icebreakers
[More from Jasbina] —> [VIDEO] Intersections Match by Jasbina – From The Founder
She is the Founder & President of Intersections Match by Jasbina, the only Premier Full-Service Personalized Matchmaking, Dating / Relationship Coaching & Online Dating Support Firm – For Indian Singles.
Jasbina is also the host of Intersections Match Talk Radio – Jasbina Lifestyle Show, a monthly holistic lifestyle show – conversations with published authors/experts on relationships and health and wellness.
(1:03): Welcome to our third month of NetIP Spotlight: Live Your Potential where we invite guest experts every third Monday on important topics and give you direct access to ask questions live. I’m your host today, Aditi Ramchandani, Vice President of External Affairs of NetIP North America. Thank you for joining us today.
This month, we’re featuring guest expert Jasbina Ahluwalia. She will be speaking with us about how to network in any setting. Here is a little bit of background on Jasbina.
Jasbina is an attorney-turned-entrepreneur, happily married, second generation Indian-American relationship expert. She’s a dating coach, matchmaker and radio show host. She’s the CEO and Founder of Intersections Match and has received worldwide press including Businessweek, Chicago Tribune, Entrepreneur magazine, San Jose Mercury News, live TV and radio. Welcome to the show, Jasbina.
(2:07): Thanks, Aditi. It’s a pleasure to be here tonight.
(2:11): We’re so happy to have you. Jasbina, I know that nowadays networking has become quite a popular buzzword. People are realizing the importance and the power of networking in today’s world. I’ve noticed that there are no clear-cut rules on how to network. We’re really looking forward to the insights that you have to share with us today.
When someone goes to a networking event, and they meet someone, they want to create a lasting first impression, whether it be in a professional or personal setting. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts on how someone can create a lasting first impression?
(3:03): First and foremost, you can never go wrong with demonstrating confidence, enthusiasm and genuine interest in another person. Keep in mind the basics, such as body posture. Interestingly, the brain tends to pick up many signals subconsciously in a split second to help a person form an opinion of you. Standing up straight with your shoulders back signals confidence.
Be an active listener. What does “active listening” mean? It’s about concentrating on what the speaker is saying and trying your best to make the speaker feel like he or she is the only other person in the room. You’re not looking around. You’re not seeing who else is there. You’re really focusing on that person.
You also want to listen for an emotion in order to understand the entire message being conveyed. You will get those meta-signals. You want to maintain eye contact so that the speaker knows that he or she has your attention. You want to make it your foremost goal when you’re listening to someone to show understanding of what the speaker truly means and is trying to say.
Another way that you can make a lasting first impression is to design a compelling and clear elevator pitch about what it is that you do. Deliver it with confidence. Confidence is huge. Demonstrating that you believe in yourself helps others that you meet while networking to believe in you also.
There is another way to make a great first impression. I read a comment by Joel Osteen about this. He said to treat everyone you meet as if they’re the gatekeepers to your destiny. In other words, keep in mind that anyone and everyone you meet has the potential to help you get to where you want to be. Actively consider how you can help be the gatekeeper for someone else as well. Those things will make an incredible first impression.
(5:28): I really like that last one. It is really powerful. You want to imagine the other person to be the gatekeeper to your destiny. That will allow people to be very open-minded when meeting different people. It’s very easy to miss one or two people here and there. For me, it’s happened before where I didn’t expect to connect with someone but I just happened to. It ended up being a very powerful relationship later down the line. That’s a great point.
How about when there are senior executives in the room? I know that many people tend to be intimidated. They may not know how to approach a senior executive. They may not know what to say or how to carry the conversation. The points that you made about making a lasting first impression could also be used when speaking to senior executives.
To take it to another level, do you have a different type of approach when it comes to senior executives? Do you have any suggestions on how to approach them and what to say?
(6:44): I think that everything we just discussed with respect to lasting first impressions will go a long way with senior executives as well. In addition, when we’re talking about senior executives, you want to be prepared. What do I mean by that? Before attending an event, it’s worth Googling those executives who you anticipate will be in attendance and you would most like to meet.
Identify those individuals and Google them. Find out things such as the schools that they went to, the causes they support and whether or not they have kids. This will do two things. It will remind you that the senior executives are people, too. When you meet, it will allow you to ask questions about things that they care about, like causes or kids.
Another important thing to keep in mind when approaching a senior executive is that they tend to be extremely selective with their time. There are those who will only speak with people who they already know or who are recommended to them. If you can seek a warm introduction, that is always helpful. By “warm introduction,” I mean that you should try to find someone you know who also knows the executive and can introduce you to them. That will most likely be well-received.
Let’s say that you identify the person who can give you the warm introduction and you are engaged with the senior executive. Senior executives will generally ask you questions to learn what you think and where you’re headed. Being able to confidently respond to these questions can be really important. I would consider these conversations as ad hoc interviews. Be on the ball.
I’ve noticed that people put too much pressure on the situation. They think that, once they finally have that senior executive’s attention, they need to say everything else that they have to say in that very first encounter. It’s more effective to recognize that, sometimes giving a good first impression and figuring out how to continue that conversation in the future is the most effective goal of the first encounter. You don’t want to feel that everything needs to be laid out because you may not get that opportunity again. Keeping those things in mind will be well serving when you’re networking with senior executives.
(9:34): I have an interesting follow up to the first part of your answer in terms of being prepared. I’ve spoken to senior executives before. Sometimes it could go the wrong way in terms of how you present it. I’m curious as to where the fine line is.
For example, I’ve been told before by a senior executive that it almost seemed stalker-ish by the way that someone knew everything about their lives. I can see how it can go wrong if presented in the wrong way. What is the fine line between doing it in a professional, likeable approach versus coming off the wrong way?
(10:20): It could be downright creepy. If you’re on a dating and you’re talking to someone and they suddenly know everything about you, you take a step back. “Balance” is a good word to use. I would keep it like a ping pong. If you go there and you deliver a monologue like, “I understand you went to Brown. You have two kids. Do you want them to go to Brown?” Someone might lean back and think, “What’s up with this person?”
Instead, I think the cause that someone supports is a great thing to bring up, especially if there is some nexus with you. Let’s say that you volunteer for an organization that the senior executive happens to support. That’s great.
Then it’s not all about him or her supporting that. You have something to add to that. You have some dimension to add. It’s a great place to start. Look for the commonalities that you might have and start there as opposed to a monologue of all of the research you’ve done on that person.
(11:35): It’s funny how that happens. I’ve seen it happen before. Thanks for clarifying that. After they meet the senior executive, people usually want to foster that relationship and turn it into something more long term, whether it becomes a mentorship or a contact. Do you have advice on what to do after the networking event in terms of how to follow up with the senior executive to foster that relationship?
(12:09): You want to recognize that, hopefully, this interaction will not be the only interaction. Working to foster the relationship is a great idea. Consider how you can add value to the executive. When it comes to investing time, executives often consider whether you can extend their network or provide valuable contacts for them. To the extent that you can, that would be really helpful. Seek to develop an awareness of the key issues and interests of the executive with whom you’d like to build a relationship. Again, some of that is available via Google. You can be a source of insight and information for them.
Let’s say that you’re reading The Economist and you notice something about a particular region of the world that the senior executive is interested in. Send them an article of interest that you come across. Don’t worry that he or she has probably already seen it. It shows someone that you remembered and took notice. That’s flattering for anyone. Senior executives are people, too. They’re not different in that sense.
Be willing to have a point of view on something. Sometimes people feel that they need to be bland, vanilla and non-controversial. Executives tend to respect people who are confident, as we all do. You want to be confident expressing your well thought out perspective.
There is one more thing to keep in mind. This is golden. It is the importance of the senior executive’s assistant. These people influence their boss’s calendar and how you’re perceived by the boss. Some bosses give their assistants power over who gets into their calendar and when. You don’t want to be calendared out months later. They also influence who gets hired. There are many executives who give this kind of veto power to their assistants. Keep that in mind as you interact, not only with the senior executives but the support personnel that are supporting that senior executive.
(14:58): That’s a great point. I never thought about that. In terms of sending things of interest, I think that’s really great advice. I’ve tried that before and it’s really well received. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t do that. They are delighted when they get a note from someone like that. It leaves an impression, for sure. Thank you for your thoughts about senior executives.
Now we’ll move on to icebreakers. Do you have any value-adding icebreakers to help people to network with ease? For example, people go to different networking events, whether it’s in a professional or personal setting.
They may not always know how to approach someone, strike up a conversation or carry a conversation. It’s the same idea that we were talking about with senior executives. Now we’re talking about general networking.
Are there different icebreakers that you can suggest that we can keep in our back pocket and pull out whenever we need them?
(16:07): Everything that I’ve discussed with the senior executives would apply to general networking. Keep in mind that honing your skills in breaking the ice is very valuable. When you’re perceived as skillful in your ability to break the ice, others anticipate that you can be skillful in relating to clients, customers, colleagues, supervisors and everyone in the ecosystem, which is tremendously helpful.
Connection is the key to effective networking. There are some helpful ways to create connection. There is eye contact. It all comes full circle here. Make eye contact, smile, lean forward when you talk to someone and maintain a good attitude. Another way to connect is to ask questions to learn what someone is passionate about. It doesn’t have to be about work. It doesn’t have to be the topic that you would normally expect. You don’t want it to be a tense handshake with a conversation on the same old things.
Let’s say that you walk into the room at a networking event, you look around and think, “I don’t know anyone.” You might feel self-conscious at that point. Identify someone who is standing alone, hanging out by the food or who looks a little bit out of place as well. That person probably feels similar to how you do. Can you imagine the impact you would make by initiating contact with that person? That person is likely to be grateful.
It could be the boss of someone who will see the two of you engaged in conversation. It’s a really good energy. That’s something you can do for the times when you think, “There is no one that I know.” Find someone and make their day. There’s the whole gatekeeper of your destiny thing. You never know. That person could be that for you.
(18:45): That’s a really good idea. I’m laughing because I’ve been in that situation. As many networking events as I’ve been to, I don’t know if it ever gets easier. You have to push through and pull out these tools when you get there. I’ve been in the situation where I’ve walked into the room and didn’t know anyone. I was self-conscious for a second.
I had to stop myself and say, “Okay, you’ve done this before. You’ve got this. It’s not a big deal.” At that point, I didn’t see anyone who was by themselves. I did see two people talking who were engaged with each other. I jumped in and said, “Hey, do you mind if I join the conversation?” When I do that, people are usually very open to that. As intimidating as it is to do it, after I’ve done it, I feel like it’s not a big deal.
(19:45): That’s great. If you do that with confidence, it’s appealing. People will say, “Yes, come on in.”
(19:53): Do you have anything else that you would like to add? Do you have any final thoughts, anything about networking in general or how people can contact you?
(20:04): You see that a lot of things were repeated in terms of connection and confidence. Those two C’s will take you a long way in terms of networking, personally and professionally. If anyone wants to connect with me, you can find me on my website, which is www.IntersectionsMatch.com. You can drop me a note.
(20:43): Thank you so much. We’re going to open up the line for questions. If you’d like to ask Jasbina a question about anything that we discussed today or that you would like her advice on, please have your question ready.
(21:14): Jasbina, thanks so much for your responses. Those were great questions. You mentioned that it’s great to stay in touch with senior executives after your initial meeting. What if you don’t hear back? Should you continue to stay in touch with them? If yes, how often should you be persistent?
(21:36): There is no hard rule for that. People are busy. Don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back. Don’t assume that there is a lack of interest. Realize that they may not have gotten around to it. I would think that a senior executive would expect that, if they didn’t get back to you, you will attempt again. I think that persistence is important in that sense.
In terms of the balance, you don’t want to be leaving incessant messages. I would say that the assistant could be very helpful in that regard. If you develop a rapport with the assistant, you can get a sense of the situation. He or she may let you know that the person is traveling. They will have an insider perspective. Perhaps when they’re traveling, they don’t deal with anything happening at headquarters. Be persistent and develop a relationship with the assistant. That could really help you in terms of fine tuning how you want to engage.
(22:47): Thank you. That’s really helpful.
(23:09): Hi, Jasbina. I have more of an Intersections question in terms of professional networking and personal networking. It’s more of a cultural aspect.
Have you noticed for South Asians, whether they’re South Asian Americans or South Asians who were raised in South Asia and came to North America, any advantages or disadvantages in the networking arena? If so, how have you advised them to either encourage those advantages or overcome the disadvantages?
(23:44): I encourage people to have an open mind. There may be biases or preconceived notions about who a South Asian is or what kind of person they are. Try to be almost like Teflon with that. Be who you are. Don’t feel like you need to be boxed in with anyone else’s perceptions of how they think South Asians should conduct themselves. Conduct yourself as you’re comfortable doing. Leave aside preconceived notions that others may have about that.
(24:38): Thank you. Often with South Asians, and this probably happens with other cultures as well, we’re not really taught how to network. What you said makes a lot of sense. The advice you’ve given is great. Are there other resources to learn those techniques and become more comfortable with them?
(25:03): Look for mentors within your organization and within professional groups, depending on your industry. There are tons of professional groups where one can join and look to senior leaders and mentors. There are a lot of mentorship programs in professional organizations. You may have mentors within your own organization. They come to mind in terms of how to learn those skills.
A lot of what we discussed will serve you as well. Let’s pick something concrete, like the elevator speech. One could practice that with colleagues or mentors to hone in on it. To some extent, it’s just practice. Put yourself in that environment and, over time, you will hone those interpersonal skills and the harder skills, like developing an effective elevator pitch.
(26:10): Thank you.
(26:12): You’re welcome. It looks like we hit all the questions, so I’m going to hand it back to you, Aditi.
(26:27): Thank you, Jasbina, so much. Thank you to everyone who has asked a question today. Jasbina, I think we got a lot of value out of your insights today. Thank you again.
(26:38): It’s been my pleasure. It’s been a lot of fun.
(26:43): For everyone else, don’t forget to join us this Labor Day weekend for the 23rd Annual NetIP Conference. We’ll have a number of guest speakers speaking on a variety of topics ranging from non-profits to entrepreneurship to networking. Tickets are available for purchase now. Please see our website for details. Until next time, have a good night.
What do you think?
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