By Matt Slepin, Terra Search Partners
At a recent industry networking event, I provided relationship-building tips to the diverse group of real estate professionals. For those who are interested in honing their networking skills, here’s a brief recap of the main points I discussed. A key theme runs through all of these concepts—take the long term view to creating habits, building relationships, and your career.
Building a habit of networking
Some may associate the word “networking” with shallowness, but it is actually a positive practice that is essential to any professional in business, especially in the real estate industry. Think of networking as a lifelong part of your job, whether you are a broker who builds relationships for a living or an accountant whose work doesn’t entail meeting new contacts.
Some jobs make it easier to meet new contacts, but regardless of what position you hold, make the effort to network on a regular basis. It is a win-win for you and for your employer. If you work in a function where networking is a normal part of your job, make sure some percentage of it is devoted to your long-term personal agenda and not just your company’s goals.
Many people think of networking and career planning as an external affair. Absolutely not. Definitely seek opportunities and build bridges externally. But it is even more important to build your network and experience (indeed, this is what building your resume is all about) internally.
Participating as an attendee or volunteer at industry events is a great way to network. Volunteering really sets you apart, so make that a goal. In addition to industry groups, get involved with other non-industry groups by volunteering and being a leader.
Create a networking strategy based on who you want to meet and why. In addition to external relationships, you should at least equally focus on networking within your own firm to seek out mentors and build relationships.
You have 15 chances to set up your own networking opportunities in a normal workweek, as weekdays provide the perfect time to get together over breakfast, lunch or drinks…well, okay just 13… forget Monday breakfast and Friday drinks. Set a goal of a few such meetings a week and stick to it—throughout your entire career.
How to make a strong personal introduction
Don’t spend all your time with a new contact talking about yourself. Take the time to listen to what this person has to say, as it helps build a more meaningful relationship. Take your mind off the immediate goal you are pursuing and shift your attention to broader objectives.
Two things I tell candidates are: 1) Think of your job search as a research project whose data can be shared with the contacts in your network. 2) If you are seeking only your immediate goal, you will lose, since there are five candidates and you only have a 20 percent chance of winning. Instead, focus on making a contact who will become a long-term friend. In both cases, you take a ton of pressure off of your interactions and always get to “win” since you are meeting an always achievable goal.
Remember, networking is a two-way street and real relationships are forged when you show genuine interest. As such, avoid lecturing potential contacts, telling them you are the “best candidate for x” or forgetting to look up when you are speaking. Listen and look, don’t just talk.
Be a successful “node” in the real estate industry
Cultivate your relationships, as you want them to last. Pressing someone for a favor and disappearing after it has been granted is a sure way to tarnish your relationship-building reputation.
Most important, take the long-term view on your career and your contacts. You will likely be in the real estate business for the next 25 years or more, so think about the reputation you want to establish in the industry and how you can achieve it. Build your network and cultivate your relationships for the long term, then that comment made above about networking sometimes seeming like an unserious use of time is quite wrong. It becomes your gold.
Matt Slepin is the founder and managing partner of Terra Search Partners, a retained executive search firm helping real estate companies build great teams. Terra Search Partners serves many of the country’s foremost REITs, private equity firms, pension fund advisors, private developers and owners, family-owned businesses and non-profits. Matt writes frequently on matters pertaining to human capital in the real estate business. To see additional articles written by Matt and others at Terra Search, click through to www.terrasearchpartners.com.