A nerd's guide on how to network with others
Networking is tough. It requires a lot of hard work and time. Not everyone is good at it, in fact a majority of people suck at it and only a handful of people have a natural ability. Working in marketing has been very interesting in the past year as I can see the importance of gaining personal relationships which social media and advertising cannot replace.
With 'digital transformation' being the core strategy of 60% of enterprises in 2017 according to IDC, getting to know the IT team will be a must. Talking with a lot of my friends who work as programmers, there is often a disconnect between the two, which leads us to the topic of networking with digital disruption.
Here are my messages for both programmers and networkers.
Programmers, everyone wants to get to know you so don’t be afraid! People are constantly trying to find you guys and there are huge opportunities to learn and grow. Train your mindset by constantly asking questions. Instead of input → output, turn output → inputs by asking questions.
Follow these instructions:
Assess: read about the event, identify which kinds of people will be there
Plan: list some general questions, your hobbies/interests, why you are going to the event. This will help you with your conversations
Approach: go to the event and approach someone who is perhaps standing by themselves, a couple of people who you might be able to relate with.
Introduce: ‘Hi, I’m Angela how are you?’ Sorry, there really isn’t any magic than simply going up to someone and asking the first question.
Question: the easiest answer to ‘how are you’ is ‘good thanks’. What I want to challenge you to do is answer it honestly and explain why.
Continually question: input → output → input → output → input → output → input, etc.
‘I’m tired, I had a busy day at work’
‘Oh that’s a shame. why, what did you get up to?’
‘I’ve had a lot of customers complain about the service we provide, we’re short staffed at work as well’
‘Sounds hectic. What do you do for work and which company do you work for?’
Can you see how I’ve taken each statement and turned it into a question? Begin by stating a compliment, words of sympathy, or just a ‘oh, that’s interesting’, then ask a question. People like talking about themselves and you can adjust statements to direct the conversation to what you’re comfortable with talking about
7. Exit: if the conversation is getting a bit dry or if the night is coming to a close, there are a couple of exit strategies such as wanting to go to the bathroom, getting another drink, looking around the room and trying to get eye contact with someone else, finding a friend or say that you simply need to go.
These 7 tips above will help you to meet people. However, networking is more than making connections, it is about building mutually beneficial relationships. Girl Geek organiser and Google’s Sally-Ann always encourages her audience to ask each other ‘what do you need’. In a start-up environment this is a fantastic question because we are here to help each other.
Ask if you could connect on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. You are a valuable asset and a connection for anyone who wants to improve a process and/or solve a problem using technology. Take baby steps, have confidence, offer your thoughts and don’t look back.
Networkers, help others out by going up to them and introducing them to other people to make their life easier. Use your strength as a networker to connect people with each other.
With technology becoming integral in how we work, it is important for us to include, understand and learn how programmers think. Programmers love helping people and bringing ideas to life. A great way to meet them is through hackathons, or meetups. As a networker, you can help by connecting the business generators and developers. You don't know who you'll be sitting next to! By doing this, you’ll be hearing ideas, be ‘in the know’, be trusted and respected for, and plus, you’ll be creating a supportive network.
What do you do during the week?
What are your skills and strengths?
What do you need?
How can I help?
Networking is not everyone’s forte. It’s an acquired skill which needs continual practice and hard work. Developers and programmers, make a conscious effort and follow the 7 steps: assess, plan, approach, introduce, question, continually question, exit. Be confident, look out for any needs and offer to help others. Networkers, digital transformation is changing how we work so getting to know programmers and developers will be hugely beneficial. Imagine if someone hacked your computer! Bottom line is, get to know others, be open and be willing to help each other.
Angela Bee Chan