How to network in 3 (easy?) steps, from someone who doesn’t like networking

Yes, we all know by now that networking is somehow an essential to succeed in the career world, and there are about a zillion articles on how to network, who to network with, and why networking is so important. And yet, here I am looking to add something useful to the pile. I decided to write this simply because I felt that I hadn’t found the article that I once needed, anywhere in that pile. I’m sharing three steps to networking that feel authentic to me, have provided me with some measure of success, and may or may not gel with how you manage your own personal networking process – either way, I’d love to hear from you, what do you think about my twist on the idea? Keep reading… 😀

I have three steps that I use to network. I think, like many problems that you see articles about all the time, the wealth of opportunity to discuss and break down the issue means that a lot of folks take that opportunity to add their perspective. And on the Internet, it costs hardly anything to publish an article that will illuminate the solution to everyone’s concern. Networking is one of these big, ambiguous problems that we all hear we need to do, but no one seems to know exactly how to go about it. So, here’s what I do to network. I set a goal, build an algorithm to meet the goal, and then review my progress.

First, I start with a goal in mind – I need to meet three new people at this conference because I’m recruiting for an open job req, or I want to ask for help with a specific project and I suspect there’s someone in my circle with expertise in that exact thing (but I don’t yet know who), or similar. The goal needs to be concrete for this to work – I need to meet *three* new people, for example. If I just told myself, Celeste you need to meet some people at this meetup (it’s in the name!) then sure, I could maybe force myself to meet a person but my inner introvert would start squawking and who knows if I’d say hello to anyone after all.

Now that I have a concrete goal in mind, I break it down into its component parts – I build the algorithm for success. I know that there has to be someone in my circle who uses Guice and can help me troubleshoot the Inject problem I am having. How can I get an introduction to them? I can reach out to five people I know who use Java at work, and ask them if they use Guice or know someone who does, and could they introduce me on. Five emails or Slack messages or SMSes takes oh, five minutes to draft and send, and then from there all I need to do is wait for a response. If a day or so goes by and no one has responded, or responded in the negative, I know I need to find five more people to ping. If someone gives me a name, I quickly follow up with that person – as that’s one step closer to my goal.

Throughout the process, I review my progress. It wouldn’t do to forget to follow up with a person I said I’d reach out to, or to sit at that meetup staring at my phone screen, or whatever other idea I can come up with to procrastinate on my networking goal. This ongoing review helps me to iterate if I need to come at the problem at a slightly different angle than I originally thought, and lets me sanity check if I’m being a bit too hard on myself. I sometimes have a tendency to think in very rigid terms, and I might find myself in a spot where I have an 80% solution fall into my lap but I’m so focused on the 100% that I don’t notice the pretty-good option at all – and that’s a terrible place to trap yourself, don’t do it! If I am at a meetup and I’ve met two new people, but the second person has completely entranced me with their story of a product launch gone wrong, I may acknowledge that the event’s ending with me only 2/3 of the way to my goal, but I have developed a promising potential mentorship relationship with the person who’s number 2 of 3, maybe that’s a win. (Or maybe I make sure to shake hands with someone who looks friendly on the way out!)

Review also helps me recognize when I’m done-done. Yes, I have found that Guice expert and they were willing to help me troubleshoot my error, or I have met three new people at this meetup and I can go home and change into pajamas while congratulating myself on my job well done. It feels good to complete a goal, and reviewing that as I go allows me to access a fast feedback loop. (Faster feedback is better than slower feedback, as you can iterate more quickly to success!)

So, knowing now that networking can get broken down into three steps just like any other project you might want to tackle, are you going to give it a whirl? Let me know how it works for you! I’d love to hear your thoughts (and yes, I’m looking for a fast feedback loop on this blog post, you know it!)

Leave a Reply