Personally I’m not a big fan of “hacks,” and think the real secret is putting in work on stuff that matters to you. But for this article, I’ll use the term “hacks.” Sue me.
2018 is coming in less than a week. January 1st will be a disaster, naitch (Monday Funday) but everyone’s back to the grind on January 2nd, give or take. Within that will be a series of networking events, new partnerships, first-time business meetups, etc. It happens to all of us. Your first one might be January 3rd or March 18th. It doesn’t so much matter. It’s going to happen within the year.
Now, you could drown probably the entirety of Estonia in books and articles written about networking. Everyone has advice and hacks on this topic. Much of it is bullshit, and here’s why: everyone is different, and everyone’s social skills and relationships to meetings and gatherings is different. Some financial geniuses are horrible in social settings. So they’d be great to network with — you need their skills! — but you’d probably hate them at a networking event. This cuts many different ways.
When we cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all the idea of “networking,” it usually fails. People and situations are just too different.
Still, there are some guiding principles we can use, right? A few 35K-foot topics? Umbrella level?
Well, let’s try.
This was the second-most read leadership article on Fast Company this year
The author, who is supposedly an EQ expert, has five things you need to do when meeting new people:
- Show genuine enthusiasm
- Offer a compliment
- Ask two open-ended questions
- Find what you share
- Say their name before you leave // commit key facts to memory
Nice. I’d agree with all of that It’s fairly common sense but isn’t much of what matters?
The most important quote in the article might be…
… this one:
The most emotionally intelligent people know that it’s easiest to connect with people they’ve found something in common with. These commonalities might not always be obvious, though; you have to look for them. For example, there’s a really experienced runner who works out at my gym, and we often have a chance to chat. Since I personally have zero interest in running, there wouldn’t seem to be common ground for a meaningful conversation beyond, “Good to see you again, how’s your week going?” But since most people like food, I once asked him what he eats before a major long-distance run. It gave us something in common to talk about.
Here’s why that matters: even if you’re a complete business stud, no one will want to do anything with you unless they like you. Likability is the driving force of networking. Fact: likability largely comes from belief in shared connection/experience. If you think a person is totally different from you, you won’t like them. And then you won’t work with them. It’s not rocket science. (Awkwardly, you might sleep with them because the difference can be “hot.” Research has shown that to be true.) You need to find the common ground, even with the Confederacy of Douches you encounter at most networking events.
Some other networking context
- Internal networking > external networking
- Don’t overcomplicate it
- Understand what “Dunbar’s Number” is and why that matters
- It’s much more about “give” and much less about “take”
- You don’t have to care that much about first impression, honestly
- Introverts > extroverts (For real.)
- Good networking is about the moments after the connection
You’re never going to get this perfect
Some networking events are complete flops/duds. We’ve all been to those, and we’ll all go to more.
But if you take the time to try out some genuine connection — eye contact, interest, figuring out the key commonalities — you’ll have a lot more “good” ones than “bad” ones, and that’s going to advance your career and opportunities.
That’s pretty relevant given most of us are terrified/nervous to the max about our careers at present.
Get out there and make your shit relevant. Make yourself be the star of every networking show. Be a human being, be present, and “hack” it up with the above ideas.