Coffee with Kevin Mills: Tips and tricks for networking

If you have been in the vicinity of the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business or at an event held by the School of Business in the last two years, you are sure to recognize the name Kevin Mills.

Kevin Mills transferred to Campbell University in August of 2020; He will graduate in May with an undergraduate degree in Trust and Wealth Management and an MBA concentrated in financial services.

Kevin is well known for his up-beat personality and his ability to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.

He currently serves as the graduate assistant for the School of Business, teaches financial literacy classes to K-12 students through the virtual learning platform Mini Money, and operates his own financial coaching business, Purpose Driven Personal Finance & Coaching LLC. After graduation, he will join First Citizens Bank in their Wealth Management department.

Kevin’s love for meeting new people and fostering existing relationships is the reason he was asked to host, “Coffee with Kevin: Everything you need to know about networking”, during Business Week 2023.

Kevin opened his session with the lesson that, “Every day is a chance to build your ‘board of advocates’. Those who will advocate on your behalf in rooms you are not yet in.”

A board of advocates is a group of individuals, separate from a mentor, that will speak to your character, competency, and unique qualities in rooms filled with opportunities for career advancement.

The remainder of his presentation focused on three key tips: Set and define your goals, be vulnerable and your authentic self, and have a game plan.

Tip #1: Set & define your goals for networking.

Identify the individuals in the room that you want to meet and then connect with the people that can introduce you.

Kevin coined this ‘working a room’. At an event, be intentional on where you stand. Position yourself at a table that faces most of the remaining area in the event space. This allows you to plot your next conversation without walking around aimlessly.

“The key to this is bouncing off of the people you know, identifying opportunities, and using the setup of the room to your advantage.” added Kevin.

Tip #2: Be vulnerable & your authentic self.

Remember, at the end of the day everyone you encounter is a human being just like yourself.

“The people we deem as strategic connections and important for our careers have more in common with us than we think. They have things that they care about and things that make them tick.” commented Kevin.

Be naturally curious and willing to find out what those things are.

Tip #3: Have a game plan.

Kevin builds his personal game plan using a four-step approach: Break the ice, find a connection point, get them to talk about themselves, and close gracefully.

To break the ice, easily, start with a well-being check; Simply, ask the person how they are doing. This step expresses compassion and allows them to let their guard down.

To further the conversation, hone in on a point of connection. This may be a piece of information you already know about the person, a shared experience, or an external factor relevant to the moment.

If you hit a dull point in the conversation, prompt them to start speaking about themselves and their interests. Asking open-ended questions about common, everyday topics, is the key here.

This is how true rapport and relationships are built.

At the end of your conversation, make sure to wrap up with a call to action.

You’ve listened and established a certain level of care and trust, now it is time to gracefully transition to continuing the relationship. This may resemble inviting them to coffee, sharing your contact information, and/or passing along your resume.

No matter your level of comfort with interacting with others, Kevin’s step-by-step guide to networking provides a sense of ease to the process. Use it in the future to tackle your next networking event.