5 Tips for Networking

I’ve seen one or two simply masterful networkers in my life. They’re so good at networking, they don’t even know they’re doing it. They charm rooms full of people and create vortexes of ideation and connection.

But networking doesn’t come as easily for some of us. Even when the desire is there, we need practice to build networking skills that are in line with our ambitions and our goals.

Here are five pro-tips for building those skills and becoming the kind of networker others want to network with:

  1. Ask questions. The key to networking is to – at first – be more interested in others than they are in you. It’s perhaps the most consistent theme in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”: People want to talk about themselves. So ask questions. Ask for opinions. Ask for use-cases or stories in which something worked or failed. What I love about asking questions is that it’s easy.
    Once you’ve conversed for a while and built trust (this may take hours or weeks), then start talking about yourself, your projects and your ideas.
  1. Try, try again. Think about when you’re dating or making a new friend. Did you have shared memories and inside jokes from the start? No — it takes time to build a friendship. The same is true of a networking relationship.
    If you’ve sought someone whose work you admire, or who’s doing innovative things in your industry, and you’ve been to lunch, keep it up. As long as they’re enjoying the meetups, keep them on your calendar at regular intervals. You’ll soon build common experiences and history that bind you together.
  1. Discuss ideas. As humans, we naturally want to keep our ideas and innovations to ourselves. The idea of sharing a valuable new tool or process with someone from another company or department seems a little shocking. Trading ideas, new software or processes with others in your industry helps everyone grow. Iron sharpens iron, and networking sharpens minds.
  2. Plan meetups. Don’t wait for your boss to plan an event for local professionals. If you know several people in your company have similar jobs but never interact, invite them to lunch and bring questions to get the conversation started. Call a few of the most talented people in your field and see if they’d like to video chat sometime. Start a closed Facebook group or arrange a meetup at a coffee shop for people who express an interest in learning and growing together. Seek a mentor in your company, and invite him or her to lunch.
    Be the person who gets the ball rolling. Not only will you create networks of people you can learn from, but you’ll be seen as the authority on networking in your sphere.
  1. Experiment. The danger zone in networking is taking the path of least resistance and connecting with people most like you. To be sure, they will understand your position and bring ideas and solutions … that you likely have already envisioned.

Try to target people in industries and professions outside your own. Sometimes what you’re looking for isn’t more of what you already know, but rather more of what you don’t know.

As you try these techniques, it’s important to note what networking actually is. The goal is to make relationships — even friendships — with people who have experience in your industry, or who bring paradigm-shifting perspectives to the table. The goal is to build a network of people who have similar goals, ambitions and core values so you can all grow together.

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