Does networking still terrify you? Learn how this Women 2.0 City Meetup speaker overcame her networking fears.
By Edith Yeung (Partner at Right Ventures/ VP International Business Development at Dolphin Browser)
How many of you think networking is overrated?
I used to think so. Not until recently I started realizing that everything I have (like my startups) and everyone I know (my friends, my colleagues) are all results of my past networking.
Networking is a fancy word for building relationships. Most people think networking is planned activities that only happen in a defined space for a short period of time (i.e. drinking champagne in your best outfit at cocktail party for 3 hours talking about nothing). My suspicion is that probably someone in the professional world invented this term just to make it sound more technical so the introverts would shy away. Fellow readers - don’t let this little trick fool you. The true definition of networking is building relationship & rapport with new friends while being yourself anywhere anytime.
Doesn’t this sound easy enough? I know what you are thinking about right now:
‘It is easy for you to say. You are an extrovert! It doesn’t matter where and when, I am just not comfortable talking to strangers!’
Trust me I know how you feel. I am an only child and was very shy as a kid. If you grew up in a city like Hong Kong with two working parents, chances were you would spend a lot of time alone in your tiny apartment. I had a few friends in school yes, but it’s not that we could go out and play on the street after school. Hong Kong is a big city with almost 7 million people. Even though the crime rate was (and still is) relatively low compared to the US, kids were usually not allowed to leave the house until at least we were 13 or 14. So what did I do home alone before I was 13? Not much.
It wasn't until I came to the U.S when I was 16 years old did my situation change from ‘no one to talk to but I still have my parents’ to ‘no one to talk to but I really have no one.’ In extreme situation as such, I was forced to break out of my cocoon. I trained myself to talk, build relationship and make friends.
Here are my seven rules of networking made easy:
The truth is everyone loves to talk about themselves. When I say ask questions, I don’t mean "What is your name?" or "What do you do for a living?" type questions. I mean real questions that bring up the past, the feeling, the experience and passion out of your new friends. Vice versa, when someone asks you: ‘How are you?’ don’t just say "I am fine" and stop there. Speak with sincerity and put some context to your "fineness."
Example: I am doing great because I just closed a BIG deal in San Francisco.
You can always add value to someone’s life anytime anywhere. Offering help doesn’t mean you have to spend hours of research and work overnight to make things happen. Send your new friends a thank you note with information you think they might be interested such as an intriguing article, shocking news or fun facts that could benefit them.
Always bring and offer your business cards. This shows your professionalism and makes you seem prepared. Work for yourself? Design a unique business card that makes you stand out. (Check out Scott Ginsberg’s How to Make Your Business Cards UNFORGETTABLE).
Write things down
After a good conversation, ask for their business card immediately and jot down how you can help. If the person didn’t bring their business card, ask for their contact anyway and write things down on your notebook.
Set goals and practice
Set goal to meet someone new every week. Networking does take work; the more you practice the more you will get better.
If you promise someone that you will send them info. Do it within the next 24 hours.
Be Yourself at All Times
You cannot pretend to be an angel at a cocktail party and become a prick at Starbucks yelling at the barista. You never know who is behind you waiting in line.
Put your person before your profession; your personality before your position; your individuality before your industry.
All of us are unique. We are all worthwhile individuals that everyone should meet and learn from. There are also great people on the street waiting for you to meet them.
Have fun connecting and turn the next stranger to your new best friend!
See you Thursday, April 3rd in San Francisco! RSVP to Women 2.0 City Meetup.
Photo by Erica Kawamoto Hsu.