Networking might sound like a cliche buzzword as much as it’s thrown around, but in today’s world, you won’t survive without a strong network. Technology has managed to achieve making the world both big and small. Our interconnection has made the world a much smaller place since anyone can now reach out to anyone else via the internet. Just look at twitter for example. We can now have the ear of any politician, movie star or athlete. They may ignore us, but we can contact them. At the same time, the world has become gigantic in the sense that your competition pool has expanded all around the world.
No longer do people in your town have to settle for the skills of the smartest person in a 5-mile radius. They can now offer relocation packages to any bright mind around the world who speaks the language. Are you the sharpest butter knife in a drawer full of blunt tools? You could have gotten a job back in the 70s. Today, not so much. The candidates are the best and brightest and if they’re willing to move on their own dime, even better. Who you know still matters greatly. Humans are social animals and a personal connection with the right person will give you an edge all else being equal.
Everyone tells you that you need to network but no one how best to do it. There are various ways that range from the laziest form of networking which we favor since it doesn’t actually involve talking to people (LinkedIn), to the most involved forms. Personally, I am starting to favor the get-your-hands-dirty approach. I think that the most involved approaches to networking have the most successful outcomes. Sure, you won’t make 50 connections in minutes our hours, but you should appreciate the quality of your network over the size of the network.
But how do you do it and why is it more effective?
Starting out is easy. Non-profit organizations are short on resources and are always looking for free help. If you demonstrate strong leadership and work ethic early consistently over time, you could very well find yourself “rising through the ranks” and end up serving on a board. Whether you are the boots on the ground or one of the trustees, you are likely going to rub elbows with some important people. Volunteering aka free work is a luxury that few can afford. Those who are successful and feel the need to give back to the community and/or those who are independently wealthy and can afford to dedicate a great deal of time to making the world a better place through philanthropy are exactly the kind of people who you want to know. You also then have common ground to start a conversation.
This is a more effective way of meting people because you’re working along side each other and have unprecedented access to people you may not have been able to talk to otherwise. With the hierarchy gone, the conversation can flow. You also know that you have at least one common interest: the cause for which you’re dedicating your time and effort. If you’ve ever been to a meet up group, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. There are 50+ people in a room with nothing in common and are focus exclusively on getting the attention of the highest ranking person in the room. They have no ability to showcase their skill and sometimes, if you’re unlucky enough, they’re trying to sell you something as part of a pyramid scheme. You walk out exhausted having to talk to all these people and compete with them for attention. You leave with more frustrations than valuable connections as you start walking from group to group ruling people out that you’d never want to connect with. On the other hand, you can be productive, do something for the greater good and rub elbows with potential mentors who have similar interests as you. Seems like an easy choice.