Source | FastCompany : By Laura Vanderkam
Ask successful people for career advice, and they’ll mention networking, for good reason. It works. That doesn’t stop people from hating the idea, though. One recent study on networking found words used to describe the process included “fake,” “deceitful,” and “disingenuous.” With such a negative connotation, no wonder it’s easy to underinvest in building a network.
But master connectors know that it’s possible to avoid this trap. They figure out ways of getting to know people that feel more giving than fake, and then they develop habits that keep them connecting, even if it would be easier not to.
Some disciplined networkers build daily habits. Michael Simmons, cofounder of Empact, a company that helps entrepreneurs share their insights through articles and events, sets a goal to make one introduction per day. It’s not about forcing it; “I let it emerge naturally based on who I’m talking with during the day, the emails I receive, and people who come to mind,” he says. “I like understanding what people need when I talk with them, and then I spend time thinking of people.” Over two years of his doing daily double opt-in introductions (both people agree to it ahead of time), people he’s introduced have become investors in each others’ businesses, and six figure clients for each other.
For two years, Max Leibman, now an imaging supervisor in Kansas City, set a goal of writing roughly 5-6 handwritten thank you notes per week. The habit started as a way to express gratitude, but “I eventually realized that it was a nice networking boost for myself.” He’s an introvert, and his prior sales role and volunteer work all required dealing with lots of people, “so I didn’t have a lot of social energy left for further networking activity, but in the quiet of the early morning or downtime at work, I could write a couple of notes and solidify a relationship.” Also, it didn’t take much time. He timed it, and retrieving a card and envelope, writing a note, looking up the address, writing the address, and stamping the envelope took four minutes and 55 seconds.
Handwritten notes are a great way to connect in general. Selena Kyle, a lawyer for a nonprofit public health and environmental group, writes a personal note every afternoon when she needs a break. Many go to friends, family, and coworkers for birthdays and work milestones, “but making a near-daily habit of this means I also have plenty of chances to write to people I went to law school or college with and am no longer in close touch with, or former coworkers or people who are part of my broader professional community, following up on something I read about them in an alumni magazine or local newspaper or just saying I’ve been missing them and wondering what they’re up to.” Almost everyone emails back to fill her in on their lives.