Happy Wednesday, friends!
Even during the winter, DC is one of those places where there’s always movement. No sluggish hibernation here: this city is a hive of activity, millions of people with their own individual dreams, jobs, to-do lists. It’s nice, but it makes it that much more important to take a breather and slowwwwwwww down. We don’t have to do it all, folks.
Today’s post is about something that I hate doing: networking. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE people. I love meeting them, hearing their stories, and being their friend who will always bring leftover baked goods to a gathering. But the idea of networking to “climb the ladder” or to form relationships specifically for the purpose of getting something always made my palms sweaty.
As life would have it, I have now entered a field and a city where networking is essential. Everyone has a business card (and some have more than a few, depending on who they’re talking to). I don’t know that I’ll ever be that kind of person, but in the early interactions I’ve had with people who are 1000 times smarter and more accomplished than I am, I’ve found three guiding principles that have served me well.
Be humble. There’s a difference between having confidence in your abilities and trying to be more than you are. Realize that most people know more than you in at least one area, regardless of who they are. Treat every interaction like you have something to learn—not just the people you meet at high-profile parties, but the person that you talk to on your walk to work. Having an honest appreciation for everyone changes your character and demeanor. And trust me, when you do find someone that you really want to learn from, they will appreciate that humility right off the bat.
Be prepared. If you’re going into a meeting with a specific person and are trying to get their advice or just meet them, do a little research! I am totally unashamed of stalking people on LinkedIn/Facebook/other places on the Internet. You don’t have to necessarily bring it up in conversation, but understanding this person’s interests and what they’ve given to the world will help you ask smarter questions and get more out of the conversation.
Be useful. This is a fabulous piece of advice that I’ve heard from more than a few people I admire and respect. If you want to get connected to a person or organization, see what you can give to them, rather than what you’re trying to get out of them. Pitch a project, bring a specific idea you’d like their insight on, or offer to volunteer for something they’re involved with. Coming with an idea in mind of what you can offer makes asking for something down the road that much easier—you’re not just a stranger asking for something out of the blue, but someone they know who has demonstrated a proven interest and ability to contribute.
These may not be extra fancy networking or conversational techniques, but I can attest to the fact that they are good ideas in any and every situation. Being the kind of person who always has a growth mindset, who takes the time to understand others, and who is willing to get their hands in the dirt is never a bad thing. Be the kind of person you want to meet.