When I first started out in the working world, I avoided networking opportunities like the plague.
I hated the whole premise of attending events, exchanging business cards and muscling into conversations with the most influential people in the room. It always felt so insincere and artificial.
I told myself that I could grow a company without being one of the scensters, pressing the flesh at every industry event and generally being ubiquitously charming and relentlessly interesting.
To some extent this proved to be the case. I built Clarity through hard work and consistently delivering a great service. This led to hundreds of referrals without me ever having to attend a Silicon Drinkabout.
What I didn’t understand, however, is that there’s a different, more authentic way to network – and it’s amazingly powerful.
Coming into this year I decided to consciously work on expanding the circle of people I socialise with and do business with. I realised that since withdrawing from the day-to-day of running offices and working on accounts that the number of people I interact with daily was shrinking.
So I set myself the challenge to cold approach two people every week and offer them something of value for nothing. My rationale was that no one would respond to a generic ‘can I buy you coffee and pick your brain?’.
The criteria I set for the people I approached was that 1) I could learn something valuable from their experience and 2) I could realistically offer them something valuable in return.
I was astonished by the results. More than 50% of the people responded positively to my cold approach. As a consequence, I’ve met some amazing, interesting people with whom I’ve built great personal and business relationships.
A wonderful, unexpected consequence of this initiative was how quickly the network started to self-propagate. My network is growing rapidly and organically as people I connect with proactively open their networks to me. It’s become an extremely valuable engine that fuels itself.
I just wish I’d started 10 years ago.