"Getting to visibility and credibility is about making connections."
- Dr. Ivan Misner, “Networking Guru” by Entrepreneur magazine
On any given Thursday night, the bar and patio area of Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park, a luxury hotel, overflows with people at this must-attend hot spot. It boasts well-heeled venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and a younger, hip crowd in comparison to previous years.
A couple weeks ago, I was invited by a Thunderbird (a.k.a., T-bird) who recently moved into the area to join her and a few T-birds for drinks at Rosewood. After finding out that three were entrepreneurs and that a couple of them were staying at her place, the reasons fell into place on why Rosewood became the chosen destination. What fascinated me is that this T-bird transplant had just met one of the T-birds, yet they'd all become fast friends.
What I'd concluded is that this T-bird woman has special talents for making quick, yet meaningful connections. She has a gift for connecting with others anywhere in the world at any given time.
Getting to know this small group of T-birds reminded me that great networking ties intention with follow-through combined with a solid dose of giving before taking. If you feel compelled to ask for something before you get a chance to invest in building a relationship with a new connection that you make, I'd like to offer a few thoughts. Common sense prevails, of course.
Three tips on how to ask and get positive results.
1. Be specific, realistic, and direct with your request. That way, you'll save the other person's time in figuring out how he or she might be able to help you. You'll want to avoid employing a "completist" mentality where you make a general, non-specific request, such as ask for any referrals related to a particular job function or several industries all at once. Make it as easy as possible for the other person to help quickly with as little effort as possible.
2. Ask the way you'd like to be asked, especially by someone you don't already know. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and act accordingly. On top of that, add a solid dose of courtesy and politeness. When asking on email, it's sometimes too easy to be fairly cavalier because of the nature of the communication tool, so just keep that in mind.
3. Find out about a person's expertise, interests, or skills, so you can ask about his or her current knowledge. For instance, do a little research. Avoid asking someone to provide advice on a company they haven't worked in for many years when you can check a resource like Glassdoor.com or ask someone who currently works there and can even benefit from an employee referral bonus.
In today's increasingly digital and dynamic world, it's easy to get caught up in this era of immediate gratification. We're now able to arrange for an Uber ride or order takeout food from smartphone apps. We now expect to get what we want when we ask for it because the consumer has become king.
Despite having increasingly busy lives, let's remember that building relationships with people is the foundation of how we can move forward and grow in life. Be the change you'd like to see and show that networking extends beyond a one-time transaction. You might even find that you like it.
People often compare effective networking to dating, yet we know It's more than a one-time match you find on a Tinder app. Fortunately, many of us know that soft skills can differentiate us.
Five networking tips, Thunderbird style.
1. Be a giver. I can share two fanstastic T-bird examples:
a. After meeting a T-bird with journalism skills, I asked her if she'd be willing to create a Thunderbird alumni profile template, and she actually did it. By doing this, she contributed social capital.
b. I met at T-bird couple that relocated from Europe recently and offered to be the T-bird ambassadors for a First Tuesday and introduce T-birds to a venue that had become a personal favorite of theirs. I admired them for "walking the walk" in making connections with fellow T-birds.
2. Pay it forward. A T-bird who I know casually mentioned that he had a fantastic parsnip and leek soup recipe. This software technology sales executive then bothered to send me the recipe. After that, he followed up with an interesting article before suggesting a work-related proposition. These were thoughtful actions, and what some consider as a lost art these days.
3. Share. I learn a lot from people I meet. Last night, I had dinner with two entrepreneurs and a digital executive. All, except for me, had just spent time flying on the legendary Emirates airline to discuss innovation in Dubai. They had decided to get together for a casual dinner at Da Sichuan Bistro in Palo Alto for some spicy cuisine enjoyed family style. They shared many personal stories tied to cooking fires, shenanigans as high schoolers, freak injuries and more, that had me laughing non-stop, and I'd just met most of them.
4. Listen. Ever heard the adage that some of the best salespeople are amazing listeners. Enough said. Good listeners, you already know who you are.
5. Be interested and interesting. You might consider yourself to be more of a listener, than a talker. That's not a problem. As long as you're having the conversation, go all in and contribute where you can. Remember to put in your best effort, and that action can take you a long way.
With so many resources available on personal networking, it's tough to choose. I've listed a few here.
1. video: How to NOT to get rejected by Entrepreneur. (2.5 minutes)
Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder and chairman of a business networking organization BNI who is called the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN and the “Networking Guru” by Entrepreneur magazine shares his viewpoint.
2. list: Business Insider post, A master networker shares his 20 networking tips.
3. book: One of my new personal favorites that is entertaining and useful is Guy Kawasaki's book for entrepreneurs, Reality Check: the Irreverant Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. He's known as an entrepreneur, evangelist, venture capitalist, and guru who also happens to be from Silicon Valley. His reality of beguiling section is worth a look; it includes chapters on the art of schmoozing, sucking down, and sucking up, respectively.
One final point, ever heard this adage? "Hey, it never hurts to ask, right?" According to Misner, it absolutely hurts. "Wrong! Yes, it hurts to ask, if you ask before you invest any social capital." If you make at least one bold move this week, make it one to invest in your social capital.