#9: 10 Tips Networking Ninjas Know

It’s no secret that having a large social group, or network, is a valuable resource. So, why are so few people actively engaged in building their network?  In this post I’m going to answer that question and give you strategies to start expanding your own network today.

Can you answer YES to any of these questions?

  1. Do you think networking feels sleazy or artificial?
  2. Do you get nervous and overwhelmed when you don’t know anyone in the room?
  3. Do you find yourself not knowing what to say to new people at a networking event?
  4. Do you find excuses to avoid networking events?

“80% of the people in this room got their job because a friend recommended them.” – Chris Rock

You’re not alone. Perhaps the most pervasive stigma networking faces is the perception that it’s all about getting something in return. Far from it. It’s about getting out and making friends. Good networkers understand that the goal of networking is to develop personal relationships with people you genuinely connect with. It’s just a happy bonus that our friends are more comfortable recommending us for jobs or referring clients our way.

As for that anxiety? Even the most adept networkers can get a touch of nerves staring at a room full of strangers. They succeed because they consciously develop strategies to overcome it. A colleague of mine was late for a networking breakfast this week. When he arrived everyone was already sitting and all eyes turned to him. A seasoned networker, instead of stammering in embarrassment, he made a quick joke that broke any tension while he grabbed his seat. I know him well, he doesn’t have some innate natural charm. He nailed it because he’s done it a thousand times before. Networking, like all skills, takes disciplined practice.

I know the idea of networking can be scary, but I also know how vitally important it is to your career. Start implementing these strategies today and soon you’ll be crushing that anxiety and making valuable connections.



  1. Show up, show up, and show up some more. Persistence is key. If you want more than most people have, you have to be willing to work harder than most people work. Networking is no exception. If you want to meet high-value people you have to consistently show up where those people are (this is NOT permission to be a stalker 😉) One of my personal friends is a high-value contact in the legal community. Prior to developing that friendship, I’d estimate we crossed paths at least 25 times over the course of a year, and had never spoken more than a few words to each other. Angels aren’t going to fall in your lap overnight, you have to keep showing up.
  2. Start with Value. Begin every interaction thinking “what can I do for this person?” Don’t think you have anything of value to offer? I can guarantee you that you’re wrong. Value comes in many forms. It doesn’t need to be dollars, or even contacts. Value can be something as simple as introducing them to an interesting person in the room, complimenting the unique necklace, ring, tie bar, etc., that they’re wearing. If they’re into fashion maybe you know a local consignment shop where they can get designer denim on the cheap. Another surefire way to provide value is to display a genuine interest in what they have to say. Many people are passionate about what they do, and they love a captive audience. But, remember, always be genuine. The fastest way to sour a new relationship is to openly be a schmooze.
  3. DO NOT RUSH IT. You should approach a networking relationship the same way you would a romantic interest. Want to send a new paramour running for the door? Tell them you love them on the third date. The same with a networking contact, don’t try to get them in bed with your big business idea right away. They barely know you, and it’s not time to move in together just yet. This is going to sound counterintuitive, but I try to talk as little business as possible when I’m networking. It’s easy to get caught up in the finer points of energy efficient exhaust fans (or whatever it is you do), but that’s a quick way to lose the attention of your audience. Everyone has a job, and most jobs aren’t patently sexy. And, even if your job is compelling, you’re probably not making a sale that moment. People do business with people they know and trust. So, use this time to get to know each other, and the business will follow.
  4. Listen. A primary cause of networking anxiety is not knowing what to say. Lucky for you a good networker spends more time listening than talking. Listening gives you the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the people you’re meeting. That knowledge will likely come in handy in the future (See #6). When it comes to networking, knowledge really is power.
  5. Ask Questions. People like talking about themselves. So, do them a favor and ask. Asking questions gives them the opportunity to talk about themselves, all but guaranteeing you’ll hold their attention and start the relationship with a positive vibe. One of my favorite ways to spark further conversation is to say “how do you spend your time when you’re not networking?” Or, if you already know what they do for work you can substitute that. The goal is to find some common ground. Oh, she likes to backpack with her husband and their dog? You just got back from a camping trip and you found a gorgeous little waterfall that’s only a couple hours away. It’s not on the map, and it’s a couple miles uphill, but it’s totally worth it. Then, you let her know you’ll shoot her an email with directions. In that quick interaction you just discovered a shared interest and you provided value. People remember that.
  6. Be a Connector: Two weeks ago I went to a networking breakfast where I met a financial advisor. As we were paying the check he mentioned that his landscaper just moved out of town and he was actively looking for someone new. I have a lawn guy that lives in my neighborhood, but it was obvious he was looking for a high-end operation. That afternoon I met with a few colleagues for an informal networking event. A colleague had invited a client of his that was a landscaper. Those two strangers are now doing business together. That was value to two people in one day, and all I had to do was listen and send an email! Now, don’t start indiscriminately connecting everyone you meet. In order to provide value the connection needs to be valuable. If I connected the financial advisor with my neighbor Jimmy that has a 1983 lawnmower that he rides from job to job, that’s likely to have the opposite effect. The financial advisor isn’t going to trust me, and Jimmy isn’t going to be thrilled about riding across town for a job he had no chance of getting.
  7. Don’t Try to Speak to Everyone. There’s not enough time to have a genuine conversation with everyone (provided it’s not a 5-10 person event) and that’s not why you’re there. You’re there to develop relationships, and you do that by spending time getting to know each other. So, instead of doing the business card drive by, spend 10-20 minutes speaking with each contact. It’s far better to walk away from a networking event with one or two quality contacts you can feel comfortable following up with, than 20-30 people that may not remember your name tomorrow.
  8. Mingle. You’re there to meet new people, so don’t spend the entire event speaking to the person you came with or someone you already know. Sure, it’s infinitely more comfortable to saddle up next to someone you already know well, but that’s not what you’re there for. Chatting with a prior acquaintance is a fine place to begin the event, and can be a great tactic to ease the initial pressure, but don’t linger there long. If you’re there with a friend, you can also approach new people together. This takes some of the pressure off of you to keep the conversation going. However, don’t use others as a crutch. The only way you’ll get better is to put yourself in those uncomfortable positions.
  9. Go Easy on the Booze. Sure, alcohol can grease the wheels of a networking event, but if you’re not careful you’ll end being remembered as the “handsy close-talker.” A good rule is to limit yourself to two drinks, especially in a crowd of strangers. Plus, networking is like any other skill, if you practice drunk your game is probably going to suffer.
  10. Follow Up. When you meet a new contact it’s best to follow up within a day or two. If you wait too long you risk them starting to forget you. Remember, they’re meeting a lot of people too. If you want to establish a relationship you need to follow up sooner than later. And, back to #2, always be thinking of ways to provide value.

Networking events are not for hooking up! For real, though, you have my card ;)  Networking events are not for hooking up! For real, though, you have my card 😉

Keep in mind, networking is essentially playdates for adults, so it’s always going to feel a bit awkward at the outset. And, not every networking event is going to be a great experience. We’ve all been to events full of sharks looking for quick money or hookups, that’s just part of the grind. But don’t worry, as your skills develop you’ll have an easier time locating high-value networking events where you won’t see as much of this. If you embrace these strategies and stay persistent, you’ll be creating an ever-expanding and valuable circle of colleagues and friends in no time.

Content Links

As promised, links to the content discussed in the episode: Khan AcademyiTunes UniversityCode AcademyUdemy 

You can find me on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, & LinkedIn

As always, the podcast is available for download from the iTunes StoreGoogle PlayStitcher Radio, and TuneIn. You can also download the episode from the player above. And, please, if you enjoy the show hit that subscribe button and give us a 5-star rating in the iTunes store.

Are you thinking about taking the first step? Are you hesitating? Already moving toward your goals? Wherever you are right now I want to hear about it. Send me a message HERE.

(The show will receive a portion of every purchase made through the Udemy & Amazon affiliate links)

Udemy Generic 728x90