Networking is one of
those many skills you need in life but they (unfortunately) don’t teach in schools. I’ve talked about it a few times before on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, so I thought I’d finally write a blog post on networking.
First, think of your own definition of networking.
Do you think networking is scary? Maybe sleazy? Don’t have a clue what it is? Or maybe you have a vague idea of what networking is.
Well, let’s clear up the definition of networking: networking is simply building a long-term relationship with someone. If you think about networking as a bit like making a new friend, it’ll take away the fear or anxiety you might have.
And if you’re trying to make a new friend or establish a new relationship – you aren’t there to take, take, take! You are there to be interested and to give and add value.
It’s a bit counter-intuitive. And it’s very different from how most people do networking.
Now you might be wondering, “If I’m in a roomful of people who are older and more experienced than me, what can I give?” I have been to multiple events where I was the youngest person — and only student — in the room. It’s actually a good situation to be in and I’ve been offered multiple internships this way. Simply put, don’t be the smartest person in the room. But that shouldn’t stop you from giving and adding value.
If you think about it, you probably know something or have a skill they don’t. You may have read (or heard of) a book or article or know of some resource or website that you think would help them out. One of the most powerful things you can do is to connect them with other people — even people who you just met – who could help them. (Don’t know anyone you can connect them with? Then it’s time to meet some more people!)
Don’t underestimate yourself — get rid of your limiting beliefs.
Another great thing to do when networking is to ask good questions. It’s true: people like to talk about themselves. These are always good questions to ask someone:
- How did you get into ______?
- What do you like best about ______?
- What’s the best/worst thing about ______?
- What’s most exciting for you right now in life/business?
- What’s challenging for your right now in life/business?
These questions dive deep and they will help you to really get to know the person you’re talking with. Eventually, they’ll start asking questions about you. That’s you chance to talk about yourself and shine.
Now that you know the basics of networking, where do you go to meet people and actually network?
Here are a few resources:
- Check out your school’s newspaper or your local newspaper. They usually have a section with a list of that day’s events or upcoming events in the area.
- If you’re a college student, your college or department will probably have an email list. Be sure that you’re receiving those emails.
- Meetup.com is an amazing place to find groups of people with similar interests. I recently went to a tech entrepreneurship meetup and met some wonderful people who I might have never met had I not found this meetup group online. We met at a pizza place and chatted about technology and app development over beer and pizza.
- Ask people you know if they know of any networking events that are happening soon.
These events you go to don’t have to be specifically networking events. You can always network no matter what kind of event you attend.
I hope by now you’re thinking to yourself that networking isn’t so bad (because it isn’t). Go and put everything I’ve talked about into practice — I bet you’ll have a ton of fun meeting new people! And let me know how it goes.
P.S. Don’t worry about collecting a stack of business cards because that’s not what networking is about (remember the definition of networking?). If you feel that you met someone who you’d like to continue the relationship with after the meeting is over, ask them for their business card and/or give them yours and stay in touch with them. Quality is more important than quantity.
P.P.S. I highly recommend Michael Ellsberg’s book, The Education of Millionaires. It’s a great book on learning the skills they don’t teach in school (marketing, sales, personal branding, entrepreneurial mindset, etc.) and he dedicates a whole chapter to networking. You can download the first chapter for free here.