Anyone else always in need of some good networking tips?
This past year, I’ve really learned the importance of networking. I have always heard people say how networking was key in their success or that if you want to change careers, grow in your career or even succeed in your career, networking is a necessary part of all of that.
I’ve heard it a.lot. However, it wasn’t until last year that I really grasped what people were saying.
Networking is scary. Especially if you are an introvert, like me, or if you just aren’t used to putting yourself out there. Walking up to complete strangers and introducing yourself can be terrifying. However, I can say, from experience, the more you do it, the easier it gets. I promise!
One networking event I recently went to was The Foundress, here in Scottsdale. The speaker of the evening was Gelie Akhenblit, CEO of Networking Phoenix, Tech Startup CEO, and TEDx Presenter. In other words the queen of networking here in the Phoenix area.
To be honest, I didn’t know there was any strategy for networking. I thought it was just about putting yourself out there, introducing yourself, and hoping to make a connection. But the networking tips I learned from Gelie proved that there is a lot that goes into networking. Her speech at The Foundress really made me think about how I can better approach networking.
After seeing Gelie speak, I reached out to her to see if I could pick her brain for some more networking tips. She answered several questions for me and provided me with so much insight into the best way to network. Since networking seems to be something everyone is recommended to do, I wanted to share her networking tips with you.
7 Networking Tips for Making Real Connections
1. Never lead with “What do you do”
“Only in the United States is it appropriate to ask somebody what they do for a living when you first meet them.”
When I first heard Gelie mention this as one of her networking tips, I was very surprised. I don’t know about you guys, but this is ALWAYS my go-to when meeting someone for the first time. Always. So when I heard Gelie say this at the event, I had to know why exactly this is a no-go.
Gelie does say that asking what somebody does is perfectly acceptable, but it’s not something you want to lead with. It isn’t something that is going to make you memorable. “What is going to make you memorable is when you truly connect with somebody and have an engaging conversation that connects on a personal level”.
2. Instead, ask them what their story is
Gelie recommends asking people what their story is rather than what they do for a living. “When you ask somebody what their story is, you’re allowing them to kind of free flow and just tell you whatever is on their mind”.
However, when you ask someone what their story is be prepared for two scenarios. “Typically what’s going to happen is they’re going to tell you what they do for a living or they will completely freeze up” when this happens, Gelie recommends prompting them with some follow-up questions, such as:
- How’d you hear about this event
- Is there something particular that brought you here tonight
“The goal is to get them to free flow and to just have a conversation”. As people tell you their story Gelie says to “look for commonality and likability, try to find things that you might have in common, and notice if there seems to be a natural vibe and/or a natural connection”.
3. Walk into every networking event being open-minded to whatever connections you may experience
Gelie provided the above advice when I asked her if you should approach networking for personal purposes, for instance making friends, differently than you do for business purposes. I’m not sure why I’m surprised at her answer, but it’s some of the best networking advice I’ve heard. “The definition of networking is making friends”.
“You may meet somebody you never do business with, but if you meet somebody that you can be really good friends with, that was absolutely worth it”. When it comes to networking Gelie says to “always put yourself in the path of opportunity. “Networking is an art, but it is also a science”.
Gelie went on to explain “you should approach every event as in I’m here to make friends and I’m looking for really good connections and whether they become your social friends or you end up doing business with them are both secondary benefits of attending the networking event”.
4. If you are looking to make friends, attend networking event based around your hobbies
Something I always hear from other women is that making new friends, as we get older, can be really hard. As Gelie pointed out, networking is all about making friends. Finding events based around your hobbies is a great way to meet people who have things in common with you.
“I’m very into spirituality, so I go to Meetup and I go to Facebook to find events that cater to people who have similar hobbies to mine, within the spiritual realm” Gelie explains, “I actually met one of my dearest, bestest friends by attending one of her Meetup events that had to do with Chakra cleansing”.
Gelie recommends doing just that. Find Meetup events, look through Facebook events, if you are a mom, find a mommy group, as a way to make new friends. “Attend, connect and make friends”.
5. There are “very specific rules” when it comes to following-up
“Rule number one, you should always follow-up with somebody within the first 72 hours of meeting them,” says Gelie. “After that grace period, that person starts to forget the initial connection you had”. Below is a video of Gelie explaining how she organizes the connections she makes as well as how she makes sure she follows-up with the people she connected with. She does note that missing the grace period is not the end of the world. Just make sure you do follow up. “All of that networking is a complete waste of time if you don’t actually follow-up”.
Rule number two is the Rule of Seven. Gelie explains, “this means you need to engage with somebody seven times before you start in their mind”. Engaging seven times sounds like a lot and Gelie warns “don’t get weird and creepy, you don’t have to have seven interactions with them within 30 minutes, spread it out over a week”. These interactions can consist of:
- Initial meeting
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Exchanging emails
6. If you are attending a networking event for the first time, introduce yourself to the organizers
This, for me, is always the biggest hurdle when it comes to networking. Every time feels like my first time, but Gelie provided some really great insight for handling this.
“If this is your first time attending a networking event, I suggest that you get there a little bit earlier,” she explains. “Getting there earlier allows you to see the physical environment, which is typically going to put you at ease and you’ll have a chance to introduce yourself to the organizers”.
Introducing myself to the organizers and letting them know it is my first time attending was never something I would have thought to do, but Gelie points out, “a good host of an event will absolutely walk you over somebody else and make a few introductions for you.”
7. Networking via social media should be treated the same as if you were networking in person
Outside of actual networking events, most of the connections we make nowadays is via social media. I wanted to know if these situations should be treated the same and Gelie provided the perfect answer, “when you are connecting with people, whether it’s face-to-face or online, you should absolutely treat this situation equally, your goal is always to connect on a personal level”.
“Instagram is a tool that I use for networking constantly and people use it to find me and reach out to me,” explains Gelie, “as long as we make a personal connection and there is some kind of mutual benefit, it’s been so easy to become friends”. She again, emphasizes not to go straight to the “What do you do” question, “just like when you meet somebody face-to-face, those personal conversations are so much more important than what you do for a living or how you make your money”.
Do you have any networking tips that help you?