Everybody loves to give advice on how to network. About having an elevator speech, about never going to lunch by yourself, about how to act at conferences, and about how to be likable, memorable and just an all around superman or superwoman. I, myself, have given quite a bit of advice on networking.
Now, come to think of it, a lot of it is unnecessary.
Why does one network? To meet and interact with people who might make a difference in your life or your business. That hasn’t changed. What has fundamentally changed are the ways we go about networking, especially with the rise of digital communication and the many different ways we can connect one-on-one with the individuals we truly want to get to know.
If I think of my own career and ventures, there probably are a few dozen people who can make a huge difference. So rather than beating around the bush and meeting 400 peripheral people in the process, why not just reach out directly to the person who you want to “network” with?
But how do you reach that person? These days, it’s easier than ever. Many of them have their own blogs or contribute to other websites. There are also Twitter, LinkedIn, staff email directories on corporate websites, etcetera. You get the picture.
I can’t do that. Email them directly? Why? How? I’m a total stranger to them. They’ll just ignore me.
That’s right. They will ignore you if you have nothing relevant to say to them. Just as they will ignore you when you have nothing relevant to say to them when you meet them at a conference, a luncheon or in any setting for that matter.
The key to never having to read another piece of networking advice is two-fold. One, have something to say. Even better, have something to give. Two, have the guts to say it.
I distinctly remember how my email conversation with serial business book author Seth Godin got started. (If you don’t know Seth Godin, Google his name. He’s big.) After a few too many drinks (this I would not recommended), I sat down at my computer and then emailed the poor guy about my massive man crush on him and how much it would mean to me if I could interview him on my interview site, IdeaMensch. Rather than wake up next to a complete stranger the following morning, I woke up to an email from Seth Godin in my inbox. He said yes.
Well, you might say, you have an interview site, Mario. It’s much easier to make connections that way. True being able to offer someone an interview is a good thing (which is probably why our CareerSparx adviser Mike started his own blog, The Anti-Resume, where he’s now interviewing people he admires) but more importantly, it’s about giving people a reason to respond to your request. That reason could be because you’re likable, thoughtful, relevant (best to be all three) or maybe because you’re asking to interview someone.
The important lesson here is this: Most people, however influential or important they might be, try to read and answer their own emails. As long as those emails are relevant to them.
So, before you wander down to one more networking event, try putting together a list of five people you want to meet. And then, email them with something interesting to say. Let me know how it turns out.
Mario Schulzke is the creator of CareerSparx, an online course that helps recent college graduates begin their careers. For more information, download their free 61-page guide on how to start your career or check out the CareerSparx blog. When not helping recent graduates ignite their careers, Mario works as a senior director at WONGDOODY, curates IdeaMensch.com and recently completed the Ironman Switzerland. He can be reached at Mario@careersparx.com.
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