3 tricks to take networking from icky to awesome [vlog]

Networking... does that word make you cringe?

Do you hate networking?

Many (if not most) of the people I meet do. I did, too.

But not anymore. I've learned to appreciate and even enjoy networking, mostly because I've learned to shift my mindset about it. And you too can learn to love networking, or at least not hate it as much.

In this 'vlog' (video blog), I will teach you three great tricks that you can use right away, easily, to take networking from icky to awesome. All you have to do is watch and listen, then implement these actionable ideas. Then, maybe you will also become a 'born-again networker' like me!

Don't forget to leave me a comment about what you liked best about the ideas in this video, or what you did with them, and as always, what else you'd like to learn from me.



Halelly: This is Halelly Azulay. I’m your leadership development strategist and this is my first video that I’m shooting from my new office in California. If you don’t know, I recently moved from the D.C. area to the Los Angeles area, and I’m really, really happy in my new surroundings, and this is going to be a short vlog – which is a video blog – to help you see that networking is not a four-letter word. In fact, when I was younger, in the early part of my career, I thought networking was just absolutely icky. And I tried to avoid it as much as I could. And it was mostly because I didn’t really understand what networking was, and I thought it was all just sort of about schmoozing people, talking to people you didn’t really find interesting, or trying to sell things to people or convince people to do things. Everything about it just seemed so fake, so unnatural. So I just figured, “Okay, I’ll do my job. I will be really good at my job. I’ll get well-known for being good at my job, and then everything else will just fall into place.”

Now, I was lucky that I did do a good job and I did get noticed and I did get promoted, but I think that there is a lot of opportunities that I left completely on the table because I didn’t even pay attention to them because of my networking mindset that I was working with. And that’s what happens – when you don’t have the kind of mindset about what networking really is and how it can add value to you in your career and in your business if you have a business, then you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities.

So there’s a lot of things I do teach people about networking, all the time. But I thought I would share three tricks with you that I think will help you see networking in a different light, as I have. I sometimes say I’m a “born again networker” because I’ve kind of seen the light about networking and I see its value now, and I also understand how it’s really not icky if you do it the right way. So here are three tricks to help you take networking from icky to awesome.

The first trick to making networking not icky is for you to try to become a connector of others. So a lot of times, we think about networking as us grabbing onto people, trying to get something from them, asking them for things. Or, someone coming to us and wanting something from us. Either side of that equation feels kind of lopsided, right? It feels like there isn’t really an equitable balance between the asking and the giving. We can talk a lot about that and how that’s not necessarily the case, but here’s the trick. What about the part where you know a lot of really interesting, cool people who may not know each other? And how about if you make it a practice, regularly, to connect people in your network that should know each other? That genuinely you think could value and get some kind of value from being connected, but they don’t know each other. So you reach out to one, you reach out to the second, and you make a connection between the two of them. And so now you’re adding three-way value, because you’re giving each of those two people value – so that’s two pieces of value right there that you’ve created – each of them gains someone new in their network and appreciates that, but of course there’s the third prong which is you. You just created a connection and two people in your network appreciate you for it. So you’ve given to them and they now value that connection with you even more. So it's a three-way value for something that absolutely has no ick factor and it doesn’t take much time. You can do this very, very quickly. In fact, Adam Rifkin who is well known as one of the most highly networked men in Silicon Valley, is famous for making this a practice every single day. He just takes five minutes to make a connection between two people.

Now, here is where I’d like to make one quick caveat. Some things that I’ve incorporated into my practice in recent months, which is make it a double opt-in introduction. What does that mean? Everybody is very busy, so if you really want to add value and you think this is a valuable connection, then do one extra step which is ask each of those people if they would find it valuable. In other words, get their permission before sending them an introduction email to someone else. Because we’ve all been on the receiving end of an introduction email that first of all we didn’t really know what’s the point? Why do we need to meet this person or what’s the value for us? And all of us feel really overwhelmed. So now someone has just created a “to do” for us. Someone has just sent us an email that we didn’t ask for, and now we’re expected to follow up with someone. So do you want to create more work for someone else? Because in the end, that’s not going to create value and they’re not going to remember you fondly for that. But they will if you send them an email and say, “Hey, I really think you should meet so-and-so. Would it be okay if I made that introduction?” And do that for both people. So now you’ve got double opt-in. Both people will give you permission to make that introduction and you can make that introduction now feeling completely comfortable that you’re not encroaching on anybody’s schedule, and you’re only providing value. And it gives them the opportunity to say, “You know? I don’t think that’s a really valuable connection at the moment, or I’m completely swamped. Not right now.” Either way, this allows them to say, It’s not a good time,” without them embarrassing themselves in front of this other person. So it’s such a good practice. It makes introductions so much more pleasant and so much better for the people involved. It is a little bit more work for you, but I think it reaps a lot of rewards for you in the long run.

Okay, so I said I would give you three tricks, and the first trick was be a connector of others. The second trip for making networking less icky and more awesome is for you to give people praise or thanks and while usually when I talk about giving positive reinforcement or positive feedback, I talk about how important it is to make it really timely. For it to be as close as possible to whatever it is you’re thanking the person for. In this case, what I really mean is actually random, kind of like random acts of kindness, except for that it shouldn’t be randomly connected to anything. I think there are a lot of people that you appreciate in your network, and what if you took a moment and every day or every week or once a month – come on, people, you can do this! – created some kind of a short email or wrote an actual physical thank you not, or wrote them a LinkedIn recommendation that tells them why you think they’re so cool, or what you appreciate about them? This will come to them out of the blue. They’re going to love it, because first of all who doesn’t love getting something positive, something specific, something sincere and genuine that tells them why they’re great or why someone appreciates them or how thankful someone is for them? So this is something that the other person is going to be so thankful for, and feel really good about the connection with you.

But, if you do something like a LinkedIn recommendation, you’re also creating lasting value for them, because now this is something that’s going to be on their profile for others to see. We all can brag about ourselves in our bio, but it sounds like us bragging. But when someone else writes a recommendation about what’s so great about us, this is social proof, right? This is a testimonial. This is something that is extremely value adding for that person for a long time to come. And I’m not talking about those little LinkedIn endorsements where you click in the box and say, “Hey, this person is does underwater basket weaving.” I don’t mean those – I think those are silly, actually. What I mean is the recommendation where you write a little paragraph that says, “I’ve known James to be the kind of person who really thinks outside the box. He’s always able to solve problems with very little resources in a very creative way. I think that James will add value to any team he’s on.” Right? That was three sentences which I just made up about an imaginary person named James, but you get the point. You can write this about almost any person you know that says something true about what is good about them. And it is extremely valuable and this is a networking tool. You are connecting more deeply with that person. You are creating a lot of good will with that person, and you are extending your value in your network. So that’s the second trick for taking networking from icky to awesome, which is give praise or thanks that’s kind of unexpected.

And my third trick for taking networking to a much more awesome place and a lot less ick is for you to be what I call a fascination detective. Yes, I made that up too! And what I mean by that is a lot of times, when we’re in a situation where we’re meeting someone new and we’re thinking about networking as small talk about absolutely nothing and a lot of people, first of all, just really don’t enjoy that. Personally, I don’t enjoy trying to make small talk. It feels weird. Most people don’t. But, we also sometimes are worried about, “What if I’m not interesting enough to that person? What if they find me boring or we can’t really connect or we don’t have anything in common?” And then the third kind of worry that a lot of people have about these conversations with newly met people is that the other person might not really be interesting, and, “What do I do? How do I talk to them if I don’t really find anything that’s interesting about them?” So here’s the thing. I’ll make this little disclaimer: yes, there are going to be people with whom you have very little in common or maybe you don’t have great chemistry. I mean, it happens, right? You’re not going to fully connect with every single human you meet. But having said that, I think that we sell ourselves short, and we don’t give a chance to most of the connections. We give up on them too quickly. And that’s because most of us naturally are in a very judging mode when we are in those first kind of introductory conversations with people, instead of a curious mode.

So if you stop thinking about, “Well, what do they think is wrong with me, or how are they seeing me that I don’t really think that they should think about me? Or what might be in my teeth, or what’s wrong with this person or how come they chose …” If you stop judging – and this is all going on in your head and I know it, because it happens in mine, and you started being more curious to find what could be fascinating to me about this person? In fact, genuinely seek points of possible fascination. Be a fascination detective! And if you approach that conversation with this kind of lens, I promise you that you’re much more likely to find something interesting about that person than if you didn’t. So, one of my favorite sayings is to be interesting, be interested. So the more that you are interested in this other person, the more likely you are to find ways in which to make that conversation fascinating to you.

Now, here’s the thing – the other person that you’re talking with is going to find you to be a riveting conversation partner. Why? Because you’re interested in them. And like I said, we are mostly involved with people who are not sincerely or enough curious and interested in us. So when we finally meet that person who is just eager to hear everything about what we’re talking about and asks us a lot of curious questions, we love talking to them. And we remember them really, really well. We remember them positively. So here you are, making positive connections, because you’re putting on that fascination detective lens in your conversations. I think it was Bill Nye the Science Guy who said something to the effect of, “Every person you meet knows something you don’t.” So, be more curious about the people that you meet, and your conversations will be instantly deeper, more interesting and will lead to better connections.

So there is a lot else that I can talk about networking with you, but I thought if you just started implementing these three tricks – be a connector, give praise and thanks, and be a fascination detective – your networking is going to become a lot less icky. So please try it out and let me know what you thought about my tricks, about my video, about anything else that you’d like to hear from me about, and if you want to stay connected and keep learning from me, I hope that you’re subscribed to my free weekly newsletter. I hope that you’re listening to my free TalentGrow Show Podcast and I hope that you’re reading my blog on which this vlog is found. Because those are ways for me to share content with you and hopefully create value for you. I love to hear feedback – please, please send me some comments or feedback because that helps me grow and in the meantime, I hope you make today great.

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