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Issue #25: Get To Know People

Having a strong network of connections is extremely helpful when you need things. But here's the thin

James Costa

September 5 · Issue #25 · View online
A batch of thoughts, resources, and motivation from a friendly digital agency owner delivered every Monday at 6am ET.

Having a strong network of connections is extremely helpful when you need things. But here’s the thing: networking is straight-up awkward. Even though most permutations of it are done in a controlled setting (i.e. an event where everyone is there for the same purpose), it can sometimes feel like prom night. No one wants to be rejected, but you also don’t want to end up dancing with the weird kid who smells funny and not be able to leave.
There are a lot of forms of networking, and I highly encourage trying different ways to get acclimatized to it. I find this to be the key forms of networking ranked in order of easiest to hardest (in terms of time and commitment level):
  1. Social networking. Just by sharing and engaging in discussions, you’re building a social footprint that will help you in the future when others looks you up online (and they will look you up). I highly recommend getting started with Twitter and building from there.
  2. Getting involved in online communities. In my early days of being involved in tech, I was involved in a few different forums (good ol’ phpBB), as well as sites like deviantART. These generally have more opportunities for larger discussions, and allow you a place to give and receive help. Quora and StackOverflow are great places to start, but I encourage you to find things around the skills you have to offer (or the skills you’re looking to build).
  3. Writing online. I mainly tried to write for niche and small online communities (UX Booth, Six Revisions), but through them got to meet some incredible people and got to leverage those articles as topics to speak about at events. With the growing popularity of sites like Medium (and, hell, Revue), it’s easier than ever to get your thoughts out there.
  4. Attending an event. This is important no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are. While initially you’ll want to attend these with friends to help make them easier, it’s important to go alone so that you don’t end up playing it safe the whole night and speaking to the only person you know.
  5. Speaking at an event. Speaking at an event doesn’t mean you’ll be speaking at conferences right away. Start small internally with your company or team during lightning talks, and pitch those to local meetups where you might get a 15 - 20 minute slot. Over time as you build a repertoire of topics, you’ll be able to pitch them to conferences (and then start making some money off of all that preparation time).
  6. Organizing an event. If you want to unlock pro networking status in life, organize an event. It’s hard, but through it you create an easy conversation starter to reach out to people you’ve been wanting to without seeming creepy. 
What’s most interesting as I reflect on the list above is that as you progress through it, the following step becomes easier. With the latter three (which are more focused on in-person networking), I found the following two tips to be the most important when it comes to approaching in-person networking:
  1. People are strangers because you choose to make them one. This is probably easier to say as an extrovert, but this has always been helpful for me in starting conversations. If you consider that everyone at a networking event is there to meet new people, it certainly takes the edge off.
  2. Three business cards. Whenever I go to an event, I only take 3 business cards with me. It helps me focus on having 3 good conversations with people (not just trying to talk to as many people as possible), and makes more authentic (unlike the guy who is holding a stack of cards and giving them to every person he speaks to for a maximum of 2 minutes). It’s kinda like the TV show The Bachelor. (I can’t believe I just referenced The Bachelor. I’m so sorry.)
  3. Networking shouldn’t be about sales or jobs. Network to meet people, and then use that network to help find the things you’re looking for. Networking at events should be about building relationships and learning. Everyone has an awkward story about someone selling something, asking for a job, or offering a job.
So, whether you’re just starting networking on Twitter or through getting involved in online communities, or organize and speak at different events: don’t lose sight of the fact that doing so should be in the service of others first, and for you second.
Good luck out there! ✌️
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s issue, I’d really appreciate your support sharing this newsletter. Whether it’s a forward, a Twitter post, or by writing my name in Tiny Tom’s doughnuts, it would mean the world to me.

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“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
- Dale Carnegie
Kids are going back to school, and schedules are becoming a little more normal again. I’ve been telling people for at least 6 months that “things will stable out” in September as I can start rebuilding some lost habits, so the pressure’s on. For all of those celebrating their kids getting back to school, kick some ass this week with the unlocked productivity! 💪
If you have any questions or I can help you in any way, all you have to do is respond to this email.
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