Karen Maybury—Managing Director of Karen Maybury Creative Connections—considers herself a matchmaker for those who dream of working on ships. With her background as an onboard employee—in positions ranging from sports director to cruise director—she knows exactly what it’s like to be in their shoes.

As a hiring partner for several cruise lines, Karen interviews people to fill shipboard positions in a multitude of areas: entertainment (variety acts, musicians, bands, technical production), onboard activities and shore excursions. She currently supports Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruises.

“We try to fit the need of each cruise line,” she says. “One person may not be right for one line but perfect for another.” For example, being fluent in a romance language might work better for a particular cruise line because of its European voyages.

Karen advertises for positions and pre-screens candidates before referring them to the cruise line. “I give them advice along the way about how to be a successful interviewee and how a resume should look. We have a very high success rate. So far we have placed a lot of young people in what could be an amazing career.”

The success of her business is the result of Karen’s vast knowledge of and experience in the cruise industry, as well as her amazing ability to effectively network and cultivate strong relationships. She shares some valuable insight on the importance of developing professional networking skills.

Emerging professionals seem to rely on social media as their primary networking platform. In your opinion, how effective is social media, and what social media channels do you rely on for professional networking purposes?

Social media is very, very effective but it also depends on the age group surrounding the position you are targeting. My Facebook page and Twitter account are useful for targeting the younger people I want to recruit. I can also see where my traffic is coming from, mostly from cruise lines and performing artists. It’s also very important, even as an emerging professional (i.e. student), to create a professional profile on a site such as LinkedIn. Many recruiters target LinkedIn for researching credible, qualified candidates.

How important do you feel it is to connect face-to-face in social settings for the purpose of networking?

When you meet with somebody and engage in conversation, you tap into the emotional connection of the person. You can very quickly read body language. It’s up to you to make sure they remember you. How I measure my business success is through every encounter I’ve made. And I always follow up with people. In business, when people know you they are more likely to reach out to you. You will always be high on their radar.

Which networking platform (social media vs face-to-face) has proven the most successful for you in establishing meaningful business relationships?  

Face-to-face completely. A couple of years ago I gave a budget presentation to executives at a large corporation. I went into this conference room and didn’t know anybody. One woman in the meeting stayed behind afterwards, and I really connected with her. She could see that I really believed in what I was doing. We stayed in touch and she has become a valuable connection.

This past Sunday I drove three hours to meet the gentleman who manages musicians for one of the cruise lines. Was it worth the drive? Absolutely. First of all, I made an effort; secondly, I got a peek into the personal life of this individual; and thirdly, I have now seen the studio where I’m going to be sending people! Showing people how much you care and making that emotional connection is important. You have to invest time in people and also have the knowledge to set your people up for success and understand the process and training they will go through.

What techniques do you use when approaching an unfamiliar individual in a group setting that you would like to get to know better?

I make eye contact. I walk up and say ‘Excuse me, I don’t mean to intrude, but I’ve been dying to meet so and so.’ I’ve been able to read if it’s a good time or not to interrupt a conversation. If I can tell that the group’s closed or it’s inappropriate, or the person is speaking, I will keep an eye on him or her for when they’ve stopped talking or break from the group to get a drink. It’s important to read body language and constantly remain alert in order to take advantage of every available opportunity to strike up a friendly conversation but not to be intrusive.

What strategies do you employ when it comes to expanding your network?

I get people who know people to introduce me. I’ll email and say ‘I’m going to be in town in a couple of weeks and would love to meet you for coffee.’ Facebook is quite important and I’ve learned all about Tweeting, re-Tweeting and hash-tagging. I tend to mention people, it goes on their page, and they might see that you know so-and-so. Also, you have to attend events you might not really want to go to sometimes. What may seem like an effort usually turns into the time of your life! It’s well worth the effort. And, if you walk away with a purse full of business cards and have made new contacts that’s great, but do follow up!

For a current job seeker, what advice can you share about the art of networking?

Arbitrarily invite people to be LinkedIn contacts. It could be a 21-year-old college graduate who has a scuba-diving certification or a flamenco guitarist, I never know if a cruise line will be requesting this type of candidate! So I add them to my contact list and people have come to expect me to always know someone for something so it increases my profile of being the “go to” person. Hence the name “Creative Connections!”

Grab every networking opportunity you can. Go to job fairs and have the courage to shake hands with the vice-presidents and senior vice-presidents and say, “Hi, I just want to say hello. I really respect your company and I hope that one day I’ll be able to work for you.” It’s not necessary to ask for a job. Ask for information that will help you in your search. Your goal is to build a relationship and establish rapport so that if a potential opportunity becomes available in the future, your contact will want to refer you.

I sent an email to the CEO of The Merlin Group basically saying ‘Hi, I’m an entrepreneur starting my own business and if you ever have time to have coffee…” That out-of-the-blue contact maybe tickled him. He thought, ‘Wow, she’s got a bit of nerve.’ Email people at the very top because they don’t get those refreshing emails. You have to be fearless. Have a great resume. Spend some time on it. I get a lot of resumes that are just illegible with spelling errors. That tells me that the individual doesn’t care enough to make the best impression possible. Do your homework, present your best self in person and on paper, and no doubt you will get noticed! By the way I got invited to that CEO’s headquarters in London and was granted an hour of their time!

How important is the “follow up” after meeting and establishing a new contact?

I send an email that says ‘It was wonderful to meet you and I look forward to working with you in the near future.’ After meeting someone at a convention or a cocktail party who is really influential, they are going to be swamped with people contacting them. If you wait a week to reach out, things have usually settled down. Being a connector makes you a very valuable commodity. People will stay in touch with you because they know you know others who might also be useful to their business. Never stop networking and connecting! Not only will you make amazing contacts, but you could also walk away with a new friend!