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If you think there is a secret to networking I am going disappoint you. There is no special way to approach people, nor are there general tactics to help break the ice between you and a stranger.
I personally believe that networking is a mind-set where you have a genuine interest in other people’s work and the willingness to help them whenever they need your advice or your resources or a bridge to the people who they want to meet. What I think helps too is the knowledge that you have something to give, just as the person who you’re about to approach has something they can give to you or help you with. You are equals!
One of my strongest beliefs is there are no hierarchies between people. You are a human. The other person is a human. They have as much respect for you as you have for them. If not, they’re not worth your time.
Generally speaking there are two ways to meet new people: networking events and conferences or approaching people directly via social networks - the easier one.
The best way to find out about networking events in your area is meetup.com and eventbrite.com. It’s easy to do a keyword search and try to find a group of people with common interests. If you cannot find any events there, you might want to look up events at co-working spaces in your area. My favourite events are hosted by PechaKucha, TedX and Creative Mornings. In case you live in a small town, you could start a monthly meetup yourself.
The other way to meet people who you’d like to have in your network is to approach them online. I prefer to use Twitter or Instagram to approach people I don’t know. Mostly it’s enough to just say “Could we have a coffee sometime next week?” If you feel uncomfortable about it, ask someone to introduce you to the person who you want to meet yourself.
When you meet with others, always offer your help. People might not need your help immediately, but it’s always good to let them know in what situation they should best approach you. If someone approaches you, ask them clearly how you could help them.
Everyone needs some help from time to time. Don’t be afraid to pay favours forward. Make it clear to people that it’s your general interest to help them on their way up. Don’t ask for favours in return. Treat your network as a favour network. Give to someone and trust that they will help someone else.
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