My friend, let's call him P, moved from Asia to San Francisco in 2012 with just a few things. A suitcase, a few phone numbers, and an ability to make friends while walking down the street.
Fast forward to 2018, and he seems to know everyone. He can pull business deals out of thin air. He is always eager to connect me with just the right people when we catch up.
He is the object of my envy.
I have been desperate to get networking right ever since I moved to the US. I have been spending hours nursing warm beers at events, chasing LinkedIn connections, and typing away in industry discussion groups.
Then I notice something. All my super-connector friends are active, but not obsessively so on Facebook or Linkedin.
Wow. Social Media hasn't changed the basics of networking.
Super-connector Secret = Stop Networking + Start Making Friends
You may ask, so practically, what can I do differently starting today?
As a card-carrying introvert, I have come accept that networking will always feel scary. But with some trial-and-error, I found six tactics that helped me feel calm, positive, and ready to say hi when I am there.
I learn that genuine connections can be made at an event, a lecture, or a local coffee shop when my mind is at the right place.
Are you ready to go make some friends?
Tactic 1: Target to meet three people only
Ah, who is that person on my Linkedin contact list? Really, where did I meet her?
Many people chuckle when I share the result of years of collecting business cards, fast and furious, wherever I go.
Now, I told myself, I just need to get three cards. I used to have this habit of darting my eyes across the room to find my next targets. Now? I have time to share something more personal than how bad traffic is, and always have been in LA.
Tactic 2: No elevator pitch
Years ago, I had the elevator pitch of my lifetime of achievements ready to go to anyone who said hi.
Oh boy, I must have been so annoying. Really, who cares?
It took me a while to realize that what most people want is to be heard. Now, I make sure I listen more than I talk. "What is the most exciting thing that is happening in your life right now?" is always a great question to ask.
Tactic 3: Find your tribe. And keep showing up
Super-connectors told me they get their job, their mentor, and their business deals by consistently showing up to events organized by a group that they feel connected with. It can be an alumni association, an industry group, a book club, or a meetup group.
Go where people are interested in building relationships.
Which probably excludes any "Business Card Exchange for xxx" event.
Tactic 4: Be a giver
Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton School of Business, said we all fall into three categories.
Givers, who give and never ask for anything in return.
Takers, who will take any help without giving back.
Matcher, who try to balance the two.
Successful super-connectors are all givers. I saw that in real life and Adam Grant's research showed that I am right. It feels good to be right.
Tactic 5: Escape the networking small talk trap
"Where are you from?"
Boy, I dragged that question. People love talking about China but China is not me.
I was trapped in the networking small talk trap. The "So, what do you do?" bantering hell.
This is how I answer those questions now that usually leads to more interesting conversations.
"I am still trying to figure out how to answer this question without telling you where I work, as work is important but not the only thing I do. What about you?"
Tactic 6: Create your own networking events
I invite people I feel connected to over to my house for coffee or dinner. Even people whom I have only met once.
That is not a conventional approach, but it works for me. I also heard the following networking strategies works:
- Have monthly 12-people group dinner and ask friends to bring a friend.
- Set up a meetup group for your passion.
- Organize events for a cause that you care about. It doesn't matter if it is about cryptocurrency, coffee, or community gardening.
Be creative. There is no rule in networking as long as it works for you.