What a High School Student Can Teach You About Networking

One of the most important things about networking is (of course) the ability to make new connections, but most of the time it’s not an easy thing to do. We all want to have a big number of these, but none of us wants to make a fool of himself by giving his business card to every person he encounters (or even worse – his CV).

So where does the poor high school student fit in this whole situation?

(Quick note: This post will probably be directed more towards the male part of the audience … sorry gals, but on the other hand I can’t really be so sure … after all I’m a guy and I don’t know much about women.)

So guys. Do you remember how were you (or your friends) dealing with creating a closer relationship with that nice girl from the senior class? Everybody had his own methods, but one of the popular ways were things like:

“Chance meetings”

We all know how it was done. If you wanted to use this method then what you had to do was go after a girl and “accidentally” keep meeting her in many different places… in a store, at a bus station, in a mall, in a cinema queue, etc. But of course the accidental part is not really that accidental because the whole thing is carefully directed and usually has a detailed script 😉 (This was the first step in the networking tutorial.)

What was the result? (Hopefully) The girl was starting to think that she already knows you, because she sees you everywhere, and at the same time she doesn’t feel siege (unless you go too far…) which would’ve happened if you had tried to be 100% honest about it, and ask her every couple of hours if she would like to meet you and hang out.

“So what does this all give me? I’m an adult now and I’m not running after girls all day long. What I do is searching for new business contacts.” – You may be asking. Basically nothing if we forget about one important element.

The power of the internet and social media

There are so many social media sites that not using any of them is like a sin. Because these are exactly the places for our “chance meetings”.

How do you do this?

It’s simple. First you got to meet someone. Just being introduced is good enough, or even introduce yourself, or just say a few words in between sessions during a conference, whatever… I can’t help you with that one. It’s also a good thing to get some contact data (a name, an email … the more the better).

In the next step you have to find as many social sites as you can on which this person has his profile. I mean places like: facebook, twitter, youtube, flickr, friendfeed, maybe even a blog.

(It’s usually better to use sites where the person is free from professional responsibility. That’s why I didn’t mention linkedin.)

Ok, so what’s the list for? This is your list of all the places for the “chance meetings”… your shop, your cinema, your mall, your bus station.

Here’s the important part

Just like in the high school, same thing right now – these places are not for getting what you eventually want as the final result. These are just, let’s say vehicles for creating some initial bond and making this other person get used to your presence. Having something in common on one level allows you to create something new on another level.

What’s worth realizing is that no matter whether you want to get a job, get a contract for selling 30,000 iPhones or  get a contract for building a whole housing estate, the final decision is always made by a human, not a company. It’s a real person who finally signs the contract, real person who chooses his business partners, real person who you have to talk to in order to get the deal done. That’s why they’re the ones that need your attention, not the company itself. Getting in touch with some of the more important people in the company will most likely make your way to the ultimate deal a lot easier.

What steps should you take to make this contact

It’s real simple actually. You already have the list of places where your target hangs out. The only thing you have to do now is to speak to him on some of them. Suppose he has a flickr account, and some architecture photos on it. In this situation you just have to create your own account, upload your photos, make some additional architecture photos, and write a comment to that person in which you will remind him of who you are, where you’ve met, and say something about the fact that you also have some pictures on the same subject, and ask if he would like to take a look at them. That’s all. You don’t write anything about business. Not even a word.

Then you go to the next place and do the same thing. Remember to keep all messages in private style.  After few times (well played few times… just like with girls in the high school) you have some initial bond, and this person knows something about you from the “private section”. He knows that you take photos of architecture, that you play the guitar, that you have a small dog. …

Now a quick puzzle. Who knows a lot about our private stuff? Our friends! So that person starts to have this impression that he knows you personally, not just in business, and that’s exactly what you want.

Only thing you have to do now is shoot him an email or make a call about business. That way you surely have better chance of succeeding. But remember, you have to do it the right way! Because we all remember the guys from the high school who couldn’t say or do anything right when it comes to dealing with girls. So don’t be that guy. … And isn’t this cool? Life is high school all over again.

So this is it. You don’t really need a networking tutorial or anything like it. Just model what other people are doing on a daily basis, even if the “other people” turn out to be high school students. You can learn quite a few networking tricks from those guys. 😉

Isn’t it just cheating? – you ask

I think it’s not. Going back to the high school for another example. What about all the happy married couples who met each other in the high school? The fact that the guy used some tricky techniques to get the girl has nothing to do with the fact that now they share a happy life together. So the end justifies the means (at least in this case).

What do you think about this approach? Have you used it in practice with positive results? The only downside is that it takes some time, but sometimes it’s worth it. Or maybe you have your own sneaky tricks?

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