June 20, 2009

Speed Dating 101

How to Stop Networking and Really Connect

If I could only list 3...

My senior year of college, when my professor asked our class to network, the exercise turned into speed dating. To me, real networking can’t be forced nor can it happen in 60 seconds. Networking sounds like a standardized process for making friends, but if want to make business connections with people, and not robots, it has to be far from standardized.

What I’ve learned:
1. Networking is like dating
2. How many people you’ve slept with does matter
3. Have fun & make friends

1. You don’t want to go to bed on the first date. (Yes, two of my advisors have said these exact words to me in the context of networking). Just like dating, in networking, you shouldn’t be so quick to pinpoint ways this new contact can help you. It’s a turnoff. Right now I’m reading the book Never Eat Alone, and one lesson I’ve already learned from author Keith Ferrazzi is instead of asking “How can you help me?” try instead asking “How can I help you?” It made me think about how often I ask this question. I’d like to think I do this well when it comes to my friends, whether it’s listening to a problem or helping out with a job search but when it comes to those I look up to, including my advisors, I easily forget to ask this.

2. Too many to count? It’s not about how many business cards you collect; it’s about meeting a few people and really connecting. That good looking suit that schmoozes with every person at the party has only given himself enough time for surface level conversation with every person he meets. Just like a one nightstand; he’s a networking slut. Don’t be slutty. Connect with 1 or 2 people and then keep in touch. This is something I've learned by simply being myself when it comes to networking. I would much rather have an actual conversation than come up with meaningless small talk.

3. Why do you think so many people go into business with their friends? Sure they end up regretting it later, but people like to do business with people they are friendly with. People they trust. People they genuinely like. If someone doesn’t like me, I can guarantee they won’t want to even hear my pitch on why College Media Group is the best way to reach students directly on campus. So, if you’re planning to network, loosen up a bit, enjoy it and make some friends. (See my blog Air Guitar and Networking).

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