Professional Networking 101, Episode 6: Situational Awareness and Context Clues

In Professional Networking 101, Adam Braatz of shares insights and experiences related to professional network development — usually while traversing to/from a networking connection.

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Episode 6: Situational Awareness and Context Clues

Should you give your undivided attention to your contact when you meet? Is there more you should be paying attention to? In this episode, Adam explains how to recognize context clues that will give you valuable insights and help you build a more meaningful connection with your contact.


-It is imperative that you give your 100% undivided focus and attention to your contact when you’re in a networking connection with them and nothing else, correct? Wrong. Wrong. You have to pay attention to way more than that. Today, we are going to talk about situational awareness and how you can use your context clues to put tools in your toolbox that’ll help you build meaningful relationships and connections. So stay tuned.

My name is Adam Braatz,, look for The Post-Military Professional on Facebook, subscribe to us on YouTube and if you’re watching this on LinkedIn, hey LinkedIn family, what’s up? Make sure to like and comment and share. How you doing? Good to see ya.

Alright, so context clues. Before I get into this there’s a disclaimer. Yes you should focus on your networking connection. When you are connecting with somebody, you need to focus on them, you need to give them the courtesy of your attention, you need to pay attention to the things that they’re saying, you need to, so you can ask meaningful follow up questions, so you can build a relationship and continue a fruitful dialogue. That’s all very important. You need to be able to take good notes afterwards too. Alright, so I’m not asking you to shift your focus away from them. There’s a difference between diverting your attention away from somebody and having your radar up and being able to soak in things that are on the periphery. Alright, that’s using your situational awareness. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s a skill that takes some time to develop but as your radar, as you keep your radar up you’ll find that you’ll be able to find little things that’ll give you clues that’ll help you foster the relationship even deeper.

Let me give you an example of a context clue. So you’re meeting with a connection in their office. Meeting in their office by the way is an absolute goldmine for context clues ’cause people usually deck out their office with things that are meaningful or important to them. So that’s always a good place to do that and you see, let’s say you see a picture on their desk of your contact with their spouse and two children. From that you could glean, alright, this person has a spouse and two children, they’re a family person. But there’s more meaning behind that and a lot of it depends on the industry that you’re in.

For example, if you’re in sales, and you’re bringing to this person a potential B2B opportunity that’ll put more money in their business and more money in their pockets and they’re a family oriented person that’s trying to provide for their kids you may put ’em in a situation where they could better provide for their kids. And that’s something that you can, that you can use, that you can, I don’t wanna say leverage but you can bring to their attention. Now on the flip side, if you’re in fund development and you’re trying to raise money for a cause or an organization, and they have young kids, they may have less money to go around. If they have older kids they may have less money to be able to contribute to an organization ’cause they’re thinking about college and stuff beyond that.

So use your clues to dig deeper and see if it has an effect on how your relationship is gonna play out moving forward. If they have a picture of them with a Corvette, they might have different priorities. And if you’re a car person too, if you know about Corvettes use that to engage. A friend of mine, the first time I met with him has a picture in his office, a framed picture that says keep calm and carry. There’s a picture of handgun there. So instantly it’s like, alright I know this is a guns guy. So I can talk to him about, about firearms and I actually asked him about it and the next time we met, it was at a firing range and we connected over that and we found common ground over that and we’ve been friends since. So that’s a way that context clues can put tools in your toolbox to help build a meaningful relationship.

Now if you’re not meeting at their office there are other clues that you can find too. Let’s say they drive up in their car and they have a customized license plate that you think is funny or means something to you. You can ask ’em about that. Do they have a bumper sticker that has some sort of philosophy or ideology or political affiliation or something that could give you clues about them? Do they have a magnetic ribbon on there? That means that they might be passionate about a certain cause that you could ask ’em about. Once you’re sitting down and chatting with them, do they have a wedding ring? Are they married? Does that mean that they’re a family oriented person and that could give you clues then about how your relationship is gonna move forward or how potentially you’d have business opportunities together. Do they have a live strong bracelet? Or something that might have some significant meaning there.

And do they have a lapel pin. Alright, a lot of people will have lapel pins that are associated with a cause or an ideology or something that’s important to them. Little sidenote, little tidbit of advice, if you have a coat that has a little slit in it for a lapel pin, absolutely every time you wear a lapel pin make sure that it is associated with an organization or a cause or a philosophy or an ideology, every time. For example, I have a Boy Scouts of America pin that I think looks nice that I like to wear on one of my suits, from my time when I was an executive with The Scouts. That has continued conversations that have stalled, and they’ve been conversation pieces. People have asked me about it. I have an Air Force pin that people have asked about and I’ve actually gotten meetings with people, strangers that have just been like, oh you were in the Air Force? I was in the Air Force, or my dad was in the Air Force. You know, so that’s my little additional tidbit for this video. Always wear a lapel pin. So if they’ve got one on too, that may give you some clues. Just make sure the lapel pin is, it means something and it’s not some big loud flowery something. Well I guess that’s just me, my personal opinion in there.

So those are some examples of context clues and how you can use them to give you insight and evidence into how you can, and give you tools to better foster and build a meaningful relationship with people. If you’re watching this on YouTube a little thing’s gonna pop up right here. You should click on the subscribe, otherwise again, hi LinkedIn family. You should like us on Facebook. Post-Military Professional, or Again, my name’s Adam Braatz. Thank you so much for watching and stay tuned for the next video, bye.

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