You’re Doing It All Wrong: 3 Mindset Shifts to Fix the Way You Network
As a VC, networking is something I love and do every single day. But all too often, I encounter other people whose approach to networking can only be described as off-putting. Ensure that you don’t fall into this category by committing to these three networking mindset shifts:
1) Start with a Give-First Mindset
There’s a great quote from author and entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi that I try to include at the end of every presentation I give: “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” Many approach a networking opportunity thinking: I need something. How do I get it? But the majority of networking is about helping others using your own skills and connections.
Imagine that you’re walking into a networking event with a crowd of people in front of you. At that instant, you could have a mindset with these kinds of thoughts:
- “Wow this is overwhelming…”
- “What if I don’t know anybody?”
- “How do I find the right person to talk to?”
- “Who has what I need?”
I find these unproductive or selfish thoughts sneaking into my own mind sometimes, so I find it useful to flip the script by instead asking myself :
- “How can I help someone here?”
- “I wonder who could benefit from what I have to offer?”
This completely different thought process will not only assist you in developing authentic and generous professional relationships, but will also relieve a lot of self-pressure.
2) Commit to Nurturing Your Network Over Time
There is a pervasive mindset that networking is something you start when you need something, like when starting a business or searching for a job. This couldn’t be further from the truth! A network is a group of people you know, you care about, and you invest in on a regular basis. As the individuals in your network grow, you get to watch them develop, celebrate their successes and help them where you can. With this give-first approach, your network will deliver from time to time without you even having to ask and in ways you may not have expected.
3) You Actually Strengthen Your Network By Using It
When it comes to tapping your network for help, a common mindset is: I don’t want to bother or impose on this person. But I’ve found that, when done properly, using my network has strengthened and deepened my relationships with these individuals.
People who are improperly trained in the art of networking might assume that the more you ask of your network, the more “social capital” you burn. However, a well-nurtured network will be happy to help you, provided you follow these rules as you reach out:
- Provide context for your request. Why do you need this help? How important is it to your future? How urgently do you need a response? Do you have other ways to fulfill this request if this particular person can’t help? There is a tendency to be timid and vague, but I find that being upfront, specific, and efficient with others’ time is a much better path.
- Be careful with others’ resources. If someone in your network makes an introduction or pulls a favor for you, make sure you follow up immediately and treat that process with care through to its conclusion.
- Close the loop. Follow up with the person who helped you to let them know if and how their help was useful. Even better if you can connect the dots as to how their help played into the bigger picture. Use this as a chance to provide a broader update on where you’re heading.
Here are examples of outreach:
- Bad: Sending a Linkedin message to someone you haven’t talked to in 5 years with this text: “Hey Sunil, I saw you know Jim Scottsmith at Google. Can you connect me?”
- Good: Sending this by email or text: “Hey Sunil, It’s Wade from Zapier. Our website is getting rate-limited by Google Cloud, so we need to get in touch with Google support manager Jim Scottsmith (www.linkedin.com/in/scottsmithj) asap so we don’t keep losing users. Do you know him well enough to ping him today? If not, just let me know and I can try a college acquaintance who might know him but that’s a stretch”. And after the introduction/help plays out, you might send “Hey Sunil, Thanks again for the connection to Jim at Google Cloud. He responded and got us unblocked the same day so we’re back on. This helps us hit our $5M revenue target for this month which we would have missed without your help. Thanks again!”
By starting with a give-first mindset, consistently investing in your network, and being respectful when you ask your network for help, you can begin to master the art of networking.
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Ubiquity Ventures — led by Sunil Nagaraj — is a seed-stage venture capital firm focusing on early-stage investments in software beyond the screen, primarily smart hardware and machine intelligence applications.