"Follow your passion," right? Wrong, says Cal Newport. The muse for his excellent and thoughtful book, So Good They Can't
Networking: forget what you think you know
There are a number of reactions a given person might have to the word "networking." Some might shy away from the idea of meeting strangers. Others see it as a great opportunity. But what is clear is that many people are doing it wrong. That's because networking shouldn't be something you do, it's simply who you are.
Whether you are at random or a curated networking event, many people approach meeting new people transactionally: what can they get in exchange for offering something of value. This cripples your efforts from the start because it leads to some having their guards up and it hijacks your own thinking, because instead of truly listening you are pinging away for transactions. Instead, relax and truly get to know someone, as you might at a party. Get to know them and what drives them. If you think of an opportunity to assist them or are reminded of someone they should know, mention it, but otherwise simply remove any agenda from your mind.
There is a certain cynicism in our society these days that makes it hard for us to believe that anyone actually wants to help without asking for anything in return. But, that's how so many relationships in life do work. For instance, if you are really happy with your Gents Place stylist, you're going to mention her name to your friends and colleagues. You're giving her the opportunity for more business without the expectation of return. So too, we can begin relationships with people with the same attitude. If you get to know someone and like their values and what they are providing, and can find a way to help them, do so. You don't need to wait until they have done something nice for you.
Break out of the mold
There's no need to sit back and wait for networking opportunities to come to you. You can create your own. You can go through your many LinkedIn connections and ask those local to you for a coffee to get to know them better. There's also Meetup, where you can meet people outside of your established communities. Yes, there's even an app for networking, called Shapr, which allows people to meet for networking, finding co-founders for new businesses, or to explore the possibility of new jobs or careers. An easy networking strategy you could do would use without even leaving your office would be to, once a week, connect two people in your network who don't know each other previously. Simply write an introductory email with both of them CCed, explaining why you think they would enjoy knowing each other, and let them take it from there. Once a week for a year - that would be 100 introductions you would have facilitated. Just imagine the possibilities that could come from that.
Some of the most exciting opportunities in life come from unexpected connections. We can help that process along by being proactive.
What are some of your favorite non-standard networking techniques and strategies? Share them below for a 30% coupon off a massage which you can use or give to a friend.
About Ben Davis
A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.
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