Professional networking tips that are actually helpful
Professional networking events are often underutilized because most of us head into an event or a conference, huddle in a corner with our known people, throw a few business cards around, then run back to the corner and probably get a little tipsy. It’s pretty ineffective for most people, and often a wasted opportunity. But it doesn’t have to be.
Matt Winters’ editorial here on AG offers endless tips on networking and getting the most out of these events, and it’s a great place to get your feet wet, whether you’re a novice networker or a seasoned card passer-outer.
But one topic we haven’t yet broached is how to network when you don’t think you have anything to offer. The truth is that many of us feel this way when we walk into a room of strangers – it can be intimidating, even for the most outgoing, well connected people on the planet.
Chris Johnson, Co-Founder of Simplifilm and Founder of our favorite new blog, Hustle And Close, recently wrote on this very topic in depth, offering unique insight into why everyone has something to offer and how you can better prepare.
How to network from scratch
We encourage you to read Johnson’s full editorial below:
We all start at zero at various times in our lives.
We may have changed jobs. Spouses. Lost friends. Moved.
We may have to find our way in a new industry.
This has happened before and it will happen again. When it happens, we might be broke, we might not have anything valuable to bring to the table.
That’s OK. What we have is resourcefulness, energy, empathy and hustle.
Let’s say you’re dropped in a 3-day conference amongst strangers. And let’s say you don’t know anyone, and everyone is having a good time and telling jokes like old friends. The circles of conversation are closed and nobody knows you. What do you do next?
Here are 5 ideas to carry with you when networking.
Idea #1: Use Gestures of Empathy
What are people afraid of? Getting buttonholed into a long-winded sales pitch.
Having to hear boring stories. Not connecting with the right people. When the conference has gone on a long time, people are a little warn out from the grind.
Dispel their fears and lead with a gesture of empathy. How do you do this?
Easy. Just address the thoughts here, make eye contact, and signal that you are already an ally.
A sample intro – between me and Steve.
Steve: “I’m Steve- from Acme Widgets”
Me: “I’m Chris Johnson – from Simplifilm. Hey, just wanted to let you know that you are always welcome to join in a conversation with me and anyone I might be around. I’ll be meeting tons of people, but I’ll be happy to introduce you.”
Steve: “Wow, that sounds great, thanks.”
After this point, follow up is optional.
Now notice: I didn’t buy Steve’s lunch, I didn’t over-promise anything. I just let Steve know I was here to help and happy to do so. That instant gesture- that I’m an ally – broke the tension.
(This may take rehearsal).
Idea #2: Create a Small Posse
My good friend Chase calls these the Third Tier concepts. Acquire allies. Make lifelong friends.
At a recent event, I met up with two people (Matt and Mindy at Winning Edits) who were aligned with my goals: we both wanted to help authors and we both wanted to accomplish some high-velocity networking. We shared a few meals together, we shared some stories, goals, we shared a hike together, and we worked very hard to help each other over the weekend.
We were strangers before the event, and I am betting we’ll be lifelong friends.
How did this happen? Well, we were introduced by a mutual contact (one that I had just met at the event). We met at small gathering of people, so there was some common ground. When I learned we had a lot of shared goals and a lot of people in our personal venn diagrams that would benefit each other, I made the call to adopt them. The three of us spent a ton of time together (and a lot of time apart) and made intros to all the people we met together.
Because I had allies everywhere I was able to confidently segue between meeting new people, and adding depth. I met other folks at the event, had other rich and probably permanent connections, too, but if all I had done was to meet them? Event was a success.
We never made a pact–we just started sharing energy to help one another early on. The momentum carried forward.
Idea #3: Focus on Velocity Balance
You have to meet a lot of people to find the right people.
This means: you have to kiss a lot of frogs…
Covering enough ground is vital because each individual – while completely valuable – is only slightly likely to be the magical contact that can change your life. So, instead of stagnating with one person, you have to branch out. Here are some ways to do that:
- Everyone you meet should be told they are ‘always welcome to say hi (this gets to #4- graceful exits).’
- Any time you have a meal, have at least one stranger there.
- Any time there is a natural break, make 3 introductions.
Each person is also looking for their “right people” so they will benefit from this.
Idea #4: Have A Graceful & Grateful Exit Framework Rehearsed
People want to move on. They’ll be thankful for it. They know what’s going on in a networking event.
So if you practice any script, the one you need is the graceful exit. You hope to leave people with a great feeling, and a graceful exit can do that.
Here’s the basic framework:
- Thank them, acknowledge them, make them feel great. Vicky does a great job here.
- Give permission to follow up later. I do this by inviting them to talk to me later.
- Tell them you’re happy to do specific favors down the road (and mean it).
Here’s an exit: “Hey, Shelly, it was fantastic meeting you. I’m going to go over and talk to my friend Matt, but I’d love to stay in touch after the event. Can I get your email (take out phone). Super. Let me know if I can help in any way- and thanks for taking the time to talk to me- glad to have a new friend!”
They will be free to leave, happy they met you, and feel warm. This takes practice.
Idea #5: Signal Long Term, Helpful Intentions
We are here to benefit other people, to help, and to be helped. We have to signal that we’re real allies, not summer soldiers.
So, there are some ways to do that, and the easiest one is to ask them what they need.
- Who is a good fit for you?
- What are your biggest challenges?
- How could I help?
- What connections would make things better?
Are signals. They are markers of who you are. They are more effective at selling than a sales pitch. Sure, an elevator speech could be useful in some instances, but a lifelong friend will pay for itself many times over.
Signals of being helpful, being able to be around. They aren’t “talking about ourselves.” They questions about the other person’s goals, and having asked them normally and naturally will increase the likelihood that someone works with you.
Go Forth, and Multiply<
“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than it is to think your way into a new way of acting.”
-Quote attributed to many people on the internet, first heard from A.J. Jacobs.
Taken together, these five ideas will create your basic framework to build a network from scratch. They minimize the risk of rejection. They maximize the rest, and it’s a very ambivert like philosophy. Have the hustle of an extrovert with the care for others that an introvert has.
When you network with empathy and gratitude, you will win way faster than you could otherwise.
So do it.
This post originally appeared on HustleandClose.com, comments may be found there.
DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?
(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?
Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.
However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.
When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.
These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.
These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.
These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.
Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.
In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”
There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.
Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.
Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.
It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.
Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.
It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.
If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.
Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.
Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?
I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.
The best course of action is to take extra precaution.
Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.
Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.
How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too
(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.
Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?
A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.
But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.
Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?
The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.
However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”
The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.
The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.
In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.
In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”
Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.
Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes
(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.
A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.
Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”
I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.
Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.
This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.
I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)
While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.
So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.
This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.
Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.
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