People or Business? | Christina M Durta CHFP CPA MST
How to have stronger relationships by focusing on people instead of business. Conversation with Jessica Levin, President of Seven Degrees Communications.
CPA, networking, fear, connections, people, meet, new people, fear of rejection, understand people
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People or Business?

People or Business?

When you meet new people, what is the first thing you ask them about? At networking and other professional events, normally people will ask the standard question: “what do you do?”.  I’m a CPA. But, is that really the most important information? What do you know about me as a person based on that answer? Not much except for some stereotyped image of what an accountant is in your mind. Now I ask you in return…”what do you do?” (insert your own answer). What do I know about you now? Probably another stereotype based on my own personal experiences.

We’ve started our relationship off on the wrong foot because we have instantly jumped to conclusions about each other based on something completely superficial. What you do doesn’t define who you are! There are millions of accountants in the world. There are millions of carpenters. Millions of dentists. Millions of homemakers.  The truth is that every person is different and we need to start putting more emphasis on learning something interesting about the individual instead of profiling them by profession.

Buffer put out an article and an image that I thought was interesting. It was called “27 Questions to Ask Instead of What Do You Do?.  Here’s their list:


What Do You Like

Now imagine if when you met someone new, they would ask you one of these questions. It might throw you off guard a little because it’s not what we are accustomed to. But, I personally would love it if someone would start a conversation with me this way. Why? First of all, I would be more interested in them because it tells me that they are unique. I am most attracted to people who are creative and have open minds. They are more interesting and I can learn from them. Second, because it shows that they are truly interested in me; in what I believe; in what my opinion is; in what I like. They want an actual conversation and not a meet-and-greet. As Dale Carnegie said “Talk to someone about themselves and they will listen for hours”. All of us are just walking around on this earth hoping for the random chance of meeting other people who we fit with and can get along with long-term. It is a basic human need.

So, since I have your ear, I’ll pretend that you asked and will answer not one, but two of the questions. What’s the best thing that happened to you today and what is an improvement you are trying to make?

Well, thanks for asking! I’ll tell ya.

An improvement I’m trying to make is coming out of my shell. It’s not that I’m shy because I have no problem talking to people as long as I feel I can trust them. It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know because you aren’t sure if they are going to be receptive or not. You kinda have to put yourself on the line and it feels risky. That’s why people rely on the boring conversation starter about professions because it is impersonal. They feel safer that way. But we really are cutting ourselves short of good relationships by not extending ourselves and getting personal.

The best thing that happened to me today is that I met someone who changed my perception on that subject. I connected with Jessica Levin, President of Seven Degrees Communications, on LinkedIn. I reached out to her because I saw she was an author and speaker who helps professionals learn how to build and strengthen meaningful relationships. She has worked with others in the accounting industry and many other markets. I wrote that I didn’t put myself out there as much as I should because of the fear of rejection. (I assumed that I wouldn’t get a response when I hit the send on the invitation anyways, which is kind of ironic) But to my surprise, she responded and was very nice.

She gave me some inspiring words of advice. “Never worry about the naysayers and embrace the cheerleaders.” Ah, there’s the solution – stop worrying about what people think. Go for it. Concentrate on the people who get you and applaud you. Don’t let other people stop you from being who you are or letting your real personality shine through. If you encounter them, and you will, just move on to someone who is more compassionate. Do you really even want to have a relationship with a high maintenance person who you always have to spin your wheels to please? No, you want relationships with people who are easy-going and understand it’s a two-way street.

I would recommend going to Jessica’s website Seven Degrees Communications and checking out her book Perfect Pairings: The Art of Connecting People. She is very accomplished and well-educated.

“Jessica is the President of the New Jersey Professional Marketers Association (NJPSMG). She is the Director of the Network for the Needy for PCMA Greater New York Chapter. She was named Planner of the Year by the New Jersey chapter of MPI and is a JASPER Award winner in the special event planning category. Jessica holds the designation Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and Certified Association Executive (CAE). She was named New Jersey’s 2009 Top Forty Under 40, a Planner to Watch by Convention South magazine in both 2010 and 2012 and was inducted into the New Jersey Social Media Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2011 Connect Meetings and Rejuvenate Magazines named her to their Forty Under 40 list. In 2013 she was named a Finalist for Woman of the Year from the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship. In 2014 she made MeetingsNet’s Top 10 Social Media Influencers List. In 2015, Meetings & Conventions Magazine named her to their Top 25 Women in the Meetings Industry list and the Association for Accounting Marketing honored her with the Volunteer of the Year award.”

Her book features real stories and examples that teach:

  • Connecting is a calling
  • Few acts bring more satisfaction and joy to a person than helping others
  • Networking is more than passing out business cards
  • Anyone and everyone can be a connector
  • You might already be a connector (and not even realize it)
  • Even shy people can be master connectors


Jessica Levin Seven Degrees Communications Book Perfect Pairings The Art of Connecting People


See, I didn’t even know all that when I connected with her. But since she was a kind person and responded to me, I became interested and learned so much more than I expected. I am very impressed with her message and all she has accomplished. I’m glad I took that leap of faith beyond my comfort zone because now I know something real about her and have a better understanding of what’s important in my own interactions. That helps alleviate my fear and I can remember that the next time I feel myself going back into the security of my shell.

So yeah, I would say that’s a pretty good thing that happened today. It’s progress.