As a networker, your goal is to establish contacts with people who you don’t yet know, as well as maintain and grow relationships with people you’ve already met, in the hopes that in the future you may be able to do business with them. Although it certainly depends on the openness of the network that you’re trying to break into, I’ve personally found that, to borrow a Japanese phrase, “just showing your face,” can often be enough to make the connections you need.
All it takes takes is a little repetition:
The first time, people don’t even see you.
The second time, they don’t notice you.
The third time, they are aware that you are there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen you somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually have a short conversation with you.
The sixth time they ignore you intentionally.
The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with you.
The eighth time, they start to think, “There’s that person again.”
The ninth time, they start to wonder if you might be someone important.
The tenth time, they ask their colleagues and friends about you.
The eleventh time, they wonder if you’re really as “amazing” as people say you are.
The twelfth time, they start to think that you must be good at what you do.
The thirteenth time, they start to feel you have value.
The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting to work with someone like you for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they start to mention you on twitter and connect with you on linkedIn and facebook.
The sixteenth time, they start to think that they may work with you sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they invite you out for coffee to discuss ways you could work together.
The eighteenth time, they curse bad timing for keeping them from working with someone as awesome as you.
The nineteenth time, they make deliberate plans to hire you/fund your company/make you a co-founder.
The twentieth time…you’re working together.
If you feel like you’ve read this somewhere before, you probably have. This guide is actually based on a guide on advertising written more than a hundred years ago by a London businessman named Thomas Smith. Smith’s guide was about product advertising, and though some might object to my comparing advertising to making personal connections, the similarities are striking. So striking in fact, that it took me less than five minutes to adapt Smith’s guide on advertising to produce one on networking.
The great thing about networking today is that the Internet, the blogopshere, and various social networking sites can do a lot to accelerate the twenty-step process mentioned above. “Showing your face” in person is ideal, but “showing your face” on twitter, facebook and in RSS feeds isn’t so bad either. It ‘s these cheap and versatile technologies that allow you to “advertise” yourself through multiple channels when in the past only large corporations had the resources to do so.
Multiple channels is key, because it’s not just about maximizing your exposure to a certain network of people; it’s also about maximizing the variety of channels through which they are exposed to you. Just as Google search results tend to favor websites with links coming from a wide variety of other websites, people tend to have a higher opinion of another person when that person’s “social mentions” come from a wider variety of sources. In other words, it’s better for you to have three good mentions coming from three separate sources (e.g. one positive mention each from a family member, a coworker, and a client) than for you to have five recommendations from five similar sources (e.g. five mentions from five family members). It’s not enough that you have some positive recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. After all, anyone can stuff their LinkedIn profile with recommendations from their bestest buds at work. But, if you also have positive mentions within a certain audience on twitter and some random person I meet at a party says something good about you, my opinion of you would become much more favorable than if your mentions only came from one source.
While showing up often, and showing up in as many different places as possible is, to borrow a phrase from Woody Allen, “80 percent of success,” It’s important to understand that all networking efforts would be worthless without that other 20 percent: doing good work. In the end, all the advertising in the world won’t help sell a product if the product itself happens to suck.
My consistent appearances at tech and startup events was useful in that it got people to talk/ask about me when I wasn’t there. Because I showed my face often, people were curious enough about me to ask my friends and coworkers about who I was and about the kind of work that I did. Luckily for me people had good things to say, because in the two and a half months that I was unemployed I had steady stream of job prospects coming my way. In fact, I recently landed a community manager gig with the Seattle based startup eVenues, an online marketplace for meeting rooms and event spaces. They’ve got a pretty respectable list of meeting rooms in Seattle and on the West coast. I didn’t even send the guys my resume.
How are you “showing up?”