Were you taught to network? For most of us, the answer is NO. In fact, one of my most demanded talks is “Networking for Introverts.”
Let me be clear – I am not a fan of networking. I do not look forward to going to events. Yet, I have learned to be very effective and have developed a sizable network of people.
I thought about networking as a process. I figured it was like anything else. Once I understood the process, I could learn to be effective and still in my comfort zone.
So, let me share quickly this introvert’s process to networking with success.
1. Define WHO. While meeting everyone and having thousands of best friends sounds nice, most of us do not have the emotional energy for that kind of networking. Instead, figure out who are the key people you need to know. In most cases these are the people doing what you would love to do, or who have influence over what you would love to do.
2. Make contact on your terms. Once you know who, make some sort of contact. Believe it or not, I spend a LOT of time with clients helping them make contact. Most of us are not comfortable reaching out to others we do not know. So, do it in a way you are comfortable. Use email, LINKEDIN, Facebook, Twitter, phone, or another tool to meet them on your terms.
3. Advice. Ask them for a time to get advice. In this first meeting (or email, etc), quickly ask them for a time to meet. Express in few words why and ask for a few minutes of their time to get advice. (See those last words – GET ADVICE. Do not ask for a job. Do not ask for investment. Ask for only advice!)
4. Ask the key questions and listen.
The key questions are
- Tell me your story, how did you get to where you are?
- What do you love and hate about what you do?
- What keeps you awake at night?
Of course you want a friendly lead in to these questions, explaining your interest in the subject quickly and then asking. These questions open doors. Let me say that again – they open doors. Over and over I see things happen from asking these questions and this simple method of networking.
5. Shut-up. Most people are afraid of networking because they do not know what to say or how to sell themselves. My view – do not say much of anything. They do not care about you, they care about themselves and they would rather talk and answer questions you ask then hear you talk about you. So shut-up and listen.
That is the skinny of it. Give it a try! I do not care how introverted you are, you can do this!
For a little more detail, here are my past posts on the subject:
QUESTION: What other skills have you learned about effective networking? What kind of results did you get?