The average American spends about 15,000 hours at school…learning. Then it becomes time to start your career, and you suddenly realize it’s not what you know, but who you know. It’s called networking.
It’s an incredibly important life-skill, but very few people actually do it. In fact, NPR reported, “At least 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of jobs are not published. And yet most people – they are spending 70 or 80 percent of their time surfing the net versus getting out there, talking to employers, taking some chances [and] realizing that the vast majority of hiring are friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances.”
Here are some expert tips to get you through your next meetup:
- Do your research. Just like you research a company before an interview, never go into the meetup blind. Spend a few minutes checking them out online, finding mutual connections, and preparing some questions. Doing this will result in a more productive and smooth conversation.
- It’s a meetup, not an interview. Meetups are informal. Expect to exchange information and learn from one another. Use this time to establish a professional relationship. You never know when you might need their expertise down the line.
- Be helpful. Listen to the other person and don’t judge them. If you have a lot more experience than they do, offer actionable advice and follow up with them later. Everyone has to start somewhere.
- Ask for their advice. Asking questions is always a good way to show that you are actively listening to the other person. Consider being open and asking for advice that could be relevant to what the person brings to the table.
- Add to the conversation. It can be rude to interrupt, but sometimes the best way to break the ice is to insert yourself into the conversation. During a network meetup consider listening first, then jumping into the conversation at an appropriate time.
- Pay attention. This goes without saying, but so few people do it. When you meet someone and want to be a connector, you have to actively listen for opportunities to network that person with a member of your broader network.
I end with that sixth tip because it brings me to my last point I want to make – strive to become a connector. Expert networkers are connectors; they know everyone, and they’re always willing to help. I recently came across the term while reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. He says “All of us know someone like this. But I don’t think we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people.”
And he’s exactly right. That’s why I decided to connect with some connectors on about.me. Here’s just a glimpse of some of the incredibly connected individuals out there. They’re just a few clicks away, so I hope you’ll take advantage and start networking.
Sandy Jones-Kaminski describes herself as a connector, and she’s a great example because she really enjoys helping others. A blogger, speaker, and columnist for numerous digital publications, Sandy shares many useful tips and tactics on social media marketing and effective networking.
Dean McCall also brands himself as a natural born connector. He’s known in the Texas tech scene as a key player in the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, and a mentor at Canada’s top incubator, Extreme Startups. He’s also a startup enthusiast and a collaborative venture facilitator.
Garick Chan is a connector, matchmaker, and community-builder. With a background in technical recruiting, career advising, and social media marketing and community management, Garick has spoken at many conferences. He’s also listed as one of the Top 500 Community Managers on Twitter/blogs by GetLittleBird and in the Kred Elite Top 1% of influencers.