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#6: Networking | They Say It’s Who You Know, But I Don’t Know Anyone!

Updated: Jul 14, 2019

For some of us in school or business, the word “Networking” can be so daunting. And if you’re an introvert it can be even more intimidating. Not everyone gets a rush out of schmoozing with strangers for two or more hours (Unless there’s an open bar of course). Regardless of how we feel about it though, networking is inevitable when it comes to getting ahead and accomplishing our goals. So how can we successfully network with others when the very thought of reaching out to a stranger makes us nauseous?

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A few months ago, I was working on a small project at Grand Central station in NYC. I needed to interact with someone that day but didn’t have any friends or coworkers around with me. So I had to improvise. I was so nervous! I tried to stare people down to determine if they would be a good target to speak to or if they would just make me feel like a creep. Time kept flying by then I told myself that the next person to walk by me would have to be it. And WOW was she IT!

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It was a little awkward for me at first to approach Chandler and explain why I was stopping to talk to her. Luckily, she was very patient and welcoming so it made me feel more comfortable to talk to her. After casually asking about each other’s backgrounds, I realized how interesting and dope this girl was. She was traveling from college, and was used to traveling a lot with her parents from a young age . That definitely peaked my interest because I love to travel as well so I asked her about what it was like. We exchanged contact information and I was glad I got to connect with her. Not because I wanted her to give me a anything, but simply because I was genuinely intrigued by her. I thought to myself, had I not gotten over my anxiety and just spoke to her, I may have never made that connection.

Okay, so I met a cool girl who loves to travel just as much as I do. So what’s the big deal right?

No big deal. One could even  say that was a little (5 minutes of chatting) deal. But when it comes to networking it’s the little deals which lead us to our BIG deals. Every opportunity you have to connect with someone with similar interests as you is considered a win. And the way to cash out on those wins is to adjust your approach. You can do this no matter how shy or outgoing you think you are, no matter how close or distant you are from the ‘mix’, no matter how amateur or master you are. You can network in anyway that works for you.

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Here are my tips for thinking about networking wherever you are:

Friend of my friend is MY friend.The easiest way to meet new people is to meet them through people you already know. Having a close friend, classmate or colleague introduce you to someone they know can easily take the stress out of reaching out to someone first. But once that introduction is made the rest is really up to you. You have to show genuine interest in that person while sharing parts of yourself or your work that may be interesting to them.Don’t ask, don’t tell.If you don’t ASK questions they won’t TELL you anything. Being intrigued causes you to be inquisitive. Being inquisitive allows you to gain insight. Once you have insight then you can do anything. So don’t be afraid to ask things like “How did you get into what you’re doing now?” People lowkey love to talk about themselves, so asking questions that prompt them to speak about themselves can be a easy way to get information. If they’re doing the talking then it can reduce your anxiety about saying the right/wrong thing and you can hear the gems they have to share.If not in person, start online.By now we’ve all seen the power of a DM. So if you’re physically incapable of interacting with another human being (not judging), then start to network virtually. I’ve had plenty of practice diving in other professionals DMs with no shame in my game. Using platforms like LinkedIn to connect with people in my field and actually taking that extra step to ask them about their experience, or about potential opportunities. There have been a few rejections which happened to be less humiliating than in person, but there were many more people who were open and helpful and put me on to educational/ professional programs or opportunities.Let’s not forget the growing use of Social Media and online communities like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. It is a thousand times easier to connect and interact with people all over the world now. But you already knew that. All you have to do is hit “SEND”.Value everyone so everyone can value you.The thing about networking is less about the method used and more about the intent and approach. You have to be yourself. Don’t try to be dishonest or overcompensate anything about yourself or your work in order to make a connection with someone. All you have to do is BE YOU and show the person you’re interacting with that you value their time and their thoughts. You also want to drop them a few gems about things that make you valuable so that they have something to remember you by. That is the ‘Give and Take’ you often hear about when it comes to networking. What you put in is what you can potentially get out. Value given, value taken.

I’m really glad that I met Chandler that day. I reached out to her again recently to get an update on her and she was still very open and positive even after not being in touch for several months. I don’t know what can come out of that connection but I’m just glad we created a space for anything to happen.

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I challenge you to connect with someone new this week. Start where you are.

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