Today, Cole Fox says “NETWORK!” Why? Because that’s how you get a job. It’s how you make your own job. It’s how you make money. It’s how you build great teams. It’s how you can get introduced to awesome people. It’s how you develop business. It’s how you can have a support network to figure out what the hell to do with your life. In short, the more you network, the more opportunities and choices you’ll have in the business world, and the less stressed you’ll be. These are ingredients for a happy, successful life. So go forth, and network my friend!
But how, Cole?
Oh, funny you should ask.
A lot of people are confused by exactly what networking means. All it means is meeting people and maintaining some sort of relationship that leads to a positive outcome. What is a relationship? See a therapist if you don’t know. Most think of networking as this cold vanilla room with no windows…You walk in, greeted by a someone who looks like they deal out TPS reports and then you put on a red nametag that says “Hello, I’m __Name (in bad Sharpie Penmanship)___”. Next, you awkwardly start approaching people, then exchange clammy, wet-noodle handshakes, ask what one another does, and exchange business cards before moving on to the next human with a pulse.
It used to be like that…in the 50s. Now networking happens all over the place and in many different settings, such as a party, a family gathering, a conference, and now even the world wide web.
I have over 2K LinkedIn connections, 99% of whom I actually know and have met at some point. I have over 4K twitter followers, and have attended over 250 social and business networking events (including conferences) in the last three years. You don’t have to get to this level to be ‘good’ at networking, or get what you need, but this is what can happen if you care about networking.
1) Find events
Meetup.com is great because you can search for literally anything that people might want to get together or do together. Don’t just search for “networking”. Search for specific things, like Android, Startups, Learning to code, Marketing, Sales, Healthcare, Yoga, etc. If you live anywhere close to other humans, you will find a plethora of results. Make sure to fill out your profile with a nice picture and description, and introduce yourself to the groups you join. I’ve attended hundreds of meetups and started my own, ranging from trail running to entrepreneurship. Feeling brave? Start your own meetup.
“It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Event Mailing List
I stumbled across this cool mailing list that curates and shows what events are going on specific cities. This link is for SF, but if you’re somewhere else, then go to the site and change the settings, and of course then sign up for the correct email newsletter.
This is a popular platform for selling tickets, but you may not know that they have a great public and searchable feed of events going on. Go to their website or download their app and you will find plenty to discover and chew on. Also, if you connect your facebook account, you will get occasional suggestions on what to do, based on what your friends are going to and what you’ve attended.
It’s not difficult to find events, just with these top tools, and most of them are free to attend. There are more, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. BTW, if you RSVP to an event, make sure to add it to your calendar, then set an alert a couple hours before. Most sites make it easy to add by the click of a button, with the venue address and all other details included. While you’re at it, shoot the calendar invite to a friend or two. A P.I.C. can help you feel more comfortable to get out of your comfort zone to meet others, and push you to go in the first place, if you don’t like going places alone, or have a severe lack of motivation.
2) Make people love and remember you. It’s not that hard.
Be clean cut and wear jeans if it’s a jeans crowd. Wear slacks if it’s a slacks crowd.
You should aim to feel like a million bucks, but not overtly powerful and not like the bottom of the totem pole. Clothes can govern your feelings. Many tech events and networking events allow men to wear jeans and a nice tee these days, touched off with nice shoes and a blazer or sport coat. Women can get away with even more. I get my shirts and blazers custom tailored by these guys. They will come to your house and measure you. It’s worth looking good, and you can even if you’re not a perfect genetic specimen.
Stand up straight
This is a bigger problem than you think. You might have bad posture and not even know it. Thanks to my mom reminding me, I fixed mine. Most people sit all day and hunch over their desk, creating a bad habit. When you’re meeting new people, such as at a networking event, others may form an impression that you have low self esteem, or perhaps a nerdy, socially awkward person. An example of good posture is Tony Stark in Iron Man. His chest is out, head up, and he looks people in the eye. Use a mirror to correct yourself. Imagine a string attached to your head, pulling it up, and another two strings are pulling your shoulders back.
“I really need to get out of the house and my office and do more networking!”
Get and give out your business cards
I taught myself graphic design, so I make my own, but you don’t need to be an artist. I recommend these sleek cards if you want to make an impression. All you need is your basic contact info. You don’t need to have your company, unless you’re an entrepreneur and selling a product. Personal cards are great, because often times we have different intentions with different people we network with, and it leaves the door open.
GIVE GIVE GIVE
Reid Hoffmann, the founder of LinkedIn published a book that says giving to your network is important to get what you want.
Also, the book I mention below goes into ‘giving’ attention and interest in others.
Every mention, thought and gesture counts. Do it out of respect and karma will manifest.
Giving can be as simple as sharing your friends company launch video, or as complex as building a website for someone in your free time. Either way, always trust ‘networking karma’ and it will repay you.
Read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People
This is one of the most timeless business psychology books. There’s a reason it has sold 15 million copies despite being published in 1936. Follow what this book says and you will be effective at networking. If you don’t want to buy the book, here’s a free audio version on YouTube. Listen to it while you work out. If you’re too lazy to do that, at least follow these 6 core ideas when you’re at the next networking event:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves FIRST
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
By the way, here’s a cool way to remember someone’s name that I recently picked up:
- Repeat their name back to them when they tell it to you.
- In your head, repeat it 5 more times. (Did you know that if you hold a thought in your head for more than 5 seconds, it forms a memory?)
- In your head, try and rhyme their name with some characteristic of them you notice, physical or intangible. For example, Dave…(says he surfs)…(Dave…surfs waves) …. Another example: John…(currently eating shrimp)…(John..eats prawns). Sounds silly, and it can be as idiotic as you want, but just make *A* rhyme and you’ll amaze yourself at how many names you can remember in one night.
See, events aren’t hard to find, and networking isn’t all about TPS reports and clammy handshakes after all! Networking happens everywhere, so you just need to be on your game, in the moment and seek to help others first. Diversify where you meet people and always be open to meeting others. Ask them what they do first, and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. This alone will have most warming up to you quickly. Make it a point to attend at least two events a month. Be cognizant of how you look and act at the first couple events you attend, and then make sure to follow up with an email, LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter connection.
Special thanks to my friends Justin and Kristin who suggested I write about this topic!