Well, if you’re anything like I was a couple of years ago, you find the darkest corner of the room and just stand there. Um, not so good. Not only was this super-creepy, but it also had me potentially leaving thousands—maybe even millions—on the table and out of my pockets.
You may ask, “How can hiding in a corner with a drink in my hand, in a room full of wealthy and well-connected people lead me to losing a bunch of money?” My response? An awkward blank stare, and then me possibly proceeding to laugh in your face. #SorryNotSorry
But seriously, though: Those big shots at that party could have gotten me the connection I needed to land a dream job, boost my salary, find a new client or hook me up with the latest workout tip—who knows! In short, it would have made me better than the person I was before I came in building. And that’s what networking is all about.
Most people hate networking. They treat it like a job, which 70 percent of people hate as well. It’s time to take a different approach at this networking thing and turn it into a game. Here’s how.
CHALLENGE #1: BE CHOOSY
Some experts suggest attending a zillion of networking events until you get “really good at it.” Though this may sound like great advice, our body is our mind’s biggest snitch.
According to Olivia Fox Cabane’s book “The Charisma Myth,” our body language sends a clear message that other people read and react to, at least on a subconscious level. Our facial expressions, voice, posture, etc., reflect our mental and emotional condition every second. Because we don’t control this flow consciously, whatever is in our head will show up in our body language.
By only accepting invitations to networking events that get you hyped, you’ll find yourself not only saving time—the time you’d be wasting on a boring or pointless event—you could also significantly increase your network. How so?
Your brain produces a chemical called dopamine, which according to Urban Dictionary, is “the kick-ass chemical in your brain that makes you feel and do happy things.” In other words, dopamine is a good thing for a couple reasons: Not only can you save money on drinks, but this chemical ups your happiness factor any time you’re doing something you love to do. By only going to events you’re enthusiastic about, your energy, confidence and overall SWAG will shoot through the roof. More people will want to talk to you, which in turn leads to a bigger network.
CHALLENGE #2: KEEP IT 100
It’s funny how we observe people that pretend to be someone they’re not, hate it and turn around and do the same thing. You’ve seen these corporate robots before. They claim that their favorite shows are CSPAN and CNN, their hobbies are reading the Wall Street Journal or The Economist and golf for fun on the weekends. Now if that’s who you really are, then cool. But otherwise, stop faking the funk. If you like binge-watching “Breaking Bad” or sleeping in on the weekends, own it. It’s exhausting pretending to be someone you’re not, and it can really ruin a budding relationship with a potential new connection once you’re caught—trust, broken. As long as you’re not overly offensive or socially awkward, there’s bound to be people who respect or appreciate the natural you. You may be surprised to find out how much you have in common with others.
CHALLENGE #3: STOP TALKING TO PEOPLE
Unless we’re talking money, quality usually trumps quantity. Especially when it comes to networking. Don’t be that person shoving your business cards in everyone’s face. These serial networkers are the walking, breathing, life-sized versions of Spotify commercials during a fiya playlist. Your time is better spent connecting with a few people versus irritating a dozen. Not only do you stand a better chance at being remembered (in a good way), but you can also build deeper connections. You’re not going to find out someone’s true passion during your two-minute elevator pitch. Save the speech and connect.
CHALLENGE #4: FOCUS ON GIVING
So now you’re chatting it up with one or two people. In the back of your mind, you may be thinking about all the great things that will come from this relationship. STOP. And keep listening. To really solidify this relationship you must master the art of giving. Giving is one of networking’s best-kept secrets and used by all master networkers.
See, a lot of people approach networking with the intentions of getting something out of the relationship.
As time goes on, you will quickly realize that people are just as self-serving as you, and would rather watch cat videos on YouTube than help someone out. Given this information, it’s much more fulfilling to approach networking with a giving heart. Everyone needs help with something. And giving doesn’t always require a ton of knowledge, money or time. Giving advice, sharing your experiences, connecting them with someone in your current network or offering free services are great ways to give back #ForDaFree.
Networking should be beneficial to both parties—even if it doesn’t necessarily work out that way. Studies show that giving activates the area of the brain that is responsible for cravings and pleasure rewards, so the joy of putting a smile on someone’s face could be very rewarding even if he or she doesn’t return the favor.
CHALLENGE #5: THINK LONG-TERM
So now you and your new connection are BFFs right? Not quite. Building any kind of relationship takes time. You could’ve reunited with your long-lost sister, but, like a Meek Mill diss track, you can be easily forgotten.
Check this out:
According to German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, we forgot half of what we hear or learn within the first two days. Though there is some debate on the actual percentages and time frame, there is no doubt we all have terrible memories. That’s why it’s critical to email, write a card, text, call, friend request— DO SOMETHING—within 48 hours to help your new contact remember who you are. Bring up something memorable from the conversation and follow up on a regular basis. Reaching out every couple of months is a good rule of thumb, but based on the relationship you’re trying to build, you can either increase or decrease the frequency. Challenge yourself to switch up the conversations. Share a joke, a story that he or she may enjoy or an interesting article. This will not only help them remember you, but will also keeps the relationship interesting and help it flourish.