When you think about networking you probably think about networking events, business card swapping and LinkedIn connection requests. Pretty boring and unproductive, right? Networking doesn’t have to be the dry, time-wasting activity you might think of it as. In fact, if that’s the case, you’re probably doing it wrong. Stop networking like your grandfather, start making connections that matter.
The following six tips will help get your started.
1. Organize a happy hour.
Hosting your own small event is an amazing way to meet great people as well as be helpful to the people you already know. Hosting a small informal event provides the perfect atmosphere to get to know someone on a more personal level. It’s also a great way to help people, because they get to meet everyone else at the happy hour.
Having it after work hours makes people relaxed. A dinner or happy hour is usually the last thing they do for the night. (Late breakfast or lunch people always have to run off to work or other meetings.)
While you wouldn’t want to do the weekend, Friday is a great time, because people don’t have to worry about waking up for work the next day.
Bonus tip: Tell everyone you invite to bring someone else. Great people tend to know other great people.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Most networking advice focuses on the give, give, give -- and that is good advice. But at some point you need to ask. Find balance: Do both.
It might seem scary to ask as people fear rejection. But you never know what you can get until you ask, and more often than you think, the answer will be yes.
Sometimes people just need to know what you need. Be specific and direct about what you want. It makes it easy for people who legitimately want to help you. So instead of saying you’re looking for a job, say you’re looking to meet people at these five companies or with these five job titles.
If you want something, make it happen. Don’t wait for other people to give you everything. Once you get a few yeses, you will gain confidence.
3. Answer questions on Quora.
Quora, the question-and-answer website, has a large community of great people. Actively engaging on Quora by answering questions within your expertise and commenting on answers and blog posts is a great way to meet and get to know people. Plus, you will have better rapport with people whom you share interests with, because you have more in common than that you’re networking.People on Quora could become friends or colleagues, or may be able to refer you to people who can help you.
4. Self-publish a book.
Amazon has millions and millions of active shoppers. With their credit card information already stored, they have the ability to buy with just one click. Self-publishing on Amazon is like putting an infinite number of your books in the center of the world’s largest bookstore.It costs very little time and zero dollars to self-publish on Amazon. It’s incredibly easy to do. But it can lead to extremely valuable networking, brand building and passive income streams.
Plus, writing a book about an important topic establishes yourself as an authority on that subject. To get started with self-publishing and Quora at the same time, answer all questions about a topic you’re passionate about. Compile those questions into an ebook and self-publish it on Amazon. Link to the book in your Quora answers to market the book.
5. Send cold emails to your idols.
A warm introduction through a trusted mutual connection is much more valuable than a cold email. However, if you really want to meet someone and you don’t have a strong connection, you’ll have to reach out cold.
Keep your cold emails short, personalized and clearly state how you can help. If you are serious about meeting a person, and you believe they would benefit from meeting you, follow up with another message. Between four and 10 days is generally a good interval depending on the situation and urgency. Keep the follow up emails short -- around two sentences. Try to do something more than just sending another nagging email. Send them something that would be of value to them or a “humblebrag” about what you’re working on to generate interest.
You will get rejected and ignored a lot with this strategy, but I have been shocked at whom I have been able to get meetings with by simply sending a short cold emai.
6. Send update emails.
In social life, people spend time with others that are fun, friendly and funny. In business life, often people will spend time with those they perceive as inspiring or excellent in their respective field. To build relationships with awesome people, you must be awesome yourself.
Always make the effort to listen and understand, but when appropriate, don't be afraid to drop a humblebrag. Send regular updates about what you’re learning and accomplishing and ask your contacts to do the same. If you’ve landed new clients, expanded your business or met certain objectives at work, let people know. People will be more inspired to stay in touch with you if they know you’re doing awesome stuff.
Often when I send these update emails I end up getting a half dozen or so referrals back.
Related: Stop Leaving Networking to Chance