Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV
Photograph by Peter Holst
By Shahrzad Rafati
July 30, 2015

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to network? is written by Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV.

A few weeks ago I discussed the importance of making the first move when it comes to networking, but getting your foot in the door only starts the conversation; now it’s time to make something of it. We’re often our own biggest obstacle when it comes to networking because of our fear of being rejected. However, the most important thing to remember when networking is that the person with whom you’re corresponding is looking for a beneficial outcome as well. Here’s how to make the experience worthwhile for both parties:

Lead with your personality
Few people enjoy working with someone they can’t relate to on a personal level. In my experience, the best business relationships are built on friendships. These are people who might have a significant effect on your business and ultimately, your life. Show them your human side before you get down to any kind of business objectives as you’re networking. There’s nothing better than being able to discuss business comfortably over dinner or drinks.

See also: Business cards aren’t outdated and 4 other networking tips

Navigate their interests
It’s important to do your research on who’s attending the networking event beforehand, but it also helps to dig a little deeper. Discover what their interests and passions are and find some common ground. Connecting beyond a strictly professional level doesn’t only help with building a good personal rapport; it expands what you can bring to the table as the relationship grows. For example, sharing an interest in tech innovation might lay the foundation for a partnership down the road.

Think long-term
While it’s tempting to only think of the immediate benefits when making a new contact, good professional relationships are built with the long-game in mind. Similar to a game of chess, taking the most obvious opportunity may be detrimental to a more lucrative play later on, so it’s best to always think six moves ahead. Networking is ultimately less about what you can do, and more about what you can build. A chain with more links always stretches further.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s the best way to network?

How to work a room at an important networking event by Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.

The one question you have to ask everyone you network with by Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision.

3 signs you’re a serial meet-and-greet networker by Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA.

Forget what you know about networking. Do this instead by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.

3 networking mistakes you don’t know you’re making by Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite.

Why face-to-face networking will never go out of style by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam.

How to effectively network (even if you dread it) by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.

The only thing you need to keep in mind when networking by William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.

Why social media alone won’t get you a job by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.

NYSE President: I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking by Tom Farley, president of the NYSE.

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