- On April 5, 2019
Getting a job often requires networking, for example to learn about a job first, to get your resume pulled out of a black hole, to get a ringing endorsement, etc. For people who hate networking, here are some key tips from Wharton professor Adam Grant on how to make professional connections and build a great network:
- Build your skills first. Offering expertise “sets you up to connect with interesting people.” Many of you in Silicon Valley have seen Peiman Nozad’s rug stores. Through them, he met Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and impressed them so much with rug expertise that they became friends. Now he is also an angel investor (with a fantastic record).
- Help people. The strategy of scooping up business cards is ineffective. Instead, try to help people. Then building connections is easy, and you won’t feel dirty afterwards! Kat Coleman, the COO of Focus Brands (and president of Cinnabon at age 32!), started off working at restaurants on the ground floor and happily pitched in on any job that needed to be done. “Kat’s strategy was simple: be a giver, not a taker. Asking about a problem that needed solving led to more meaningful conversations. And pretty soon, Kat was known in the industry as a big helper.” Indeed, a Microsoft researcher of social networks at work has found “when people helped others solve their work-related problems, the better their performance tended to be—and that was because they were learning from helping other people solve their problems.”
- When you ask for help, tailor your request and show appreciation. For people you know already, ask them for specific advice as opposed to general, which “makes them feel important—and it makes you look smart.” (And vague requests for help definitely scare people.) To reconnect with people, remind them “what you found special about your interactions then, and where that leads you now to be reconnecting.” If you don’t know someone, think about how your request can help them. Say to them, “Here’s the thing I’m doing that I think could be really interesting to you, and this is why it might be worth some of your time.” Or explain why it’s meaningful to you and can help others. Your odds increase if you are known in your space already. After you meet, thank people and follow up with what the impact was!