I had the pleasure of joining Ludovic, the founder of one of my favorite apps, Shapr, on a live Facebook Q&A session earlier this year. As an introvert, I didn’t envision myself answering questions or giving advice on how to connect with people. I’m still a novice when it comes to networking and building relationships. Now, connecting with others is a crucial part of my career. Being successful in my role requires finding mentors, developing partners in the education sector, cultivating relationships with donors, and getting out of my comfort zone.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for the power that comes with building a large base of friends. In the era of the entrepreneur, it's easy to misinterpret 'self-made' as doing something on your own. But building a legacy is not a solo endeavor; other people are involved in the process (customers, business partners, contractors, etc). And the more I pay attention to successful people, the more I realize they associate with and hang around one another. It seems people can help you get to the next level and can also help you once you get there.
In an effort to grow, getting into new and challenging circles was the best thing I did. I’m a huge advocate of reading books and using online tools. However, the most practical advice and knowledge I’ve received over the last two years have come from my in-person connections. People can listen to what you say (or don’t say), reflect on your current situation, and offer their own experiences and challenges. As a bonus, they might even introduce you to someone who can help you.
I’m still fumbling through the process of creating a strong network. I’ve dropped the ball on following up, forgotten names, and still hesitate to introduce myself first. I’m getting better with practice. And the internet has made it that much easier to find and connect with the right people. Before I get into the tools and practices I’ve found successful -- and the mistakes I've made along the way -- I’ll share a few reasons I think networking is so important:
- Your journey isn’t unique
Even if your product or idea is special, the journey your on isn’t. Someone shared similar struggles and made it to the other side. Let other people's experience be a road map. It's bound to save you time.
- That person you’re trying reach knows people that you can reach
Busy people can be hard contact because everyone is trying to get a hold of them. However, if someone close to them can make an introduction, you can usually skip the wait and get a meeting.
- You’re idea probably needs a team
If you’re striving to make a large impact on the world, you will get to a point that you can’t be a one-person show. My best hires have all been people that I know or where referred to me.
- You can help other people
I’ve gone to some meetings where I didn’t see a clear reason to stay in touch. The conversation might be great, but there is no immediate area of collaboration or need. That’s until a friend the next week asks me, ”Hey, do you know of any good accountants?”. Making meaningful introductions people others has its way or circling back to help you.