Networking 101: Be the Connector (Part 1)

Is this situation familiar? You’re having lunch with a friend or colleague, and you’re completely geeking out about some topic, and your companion says to you: “You really ought to meet my friend James. You guys would have so much to talk about!”

And then you never, ever meet James?

Or perhaps something similar happened in the office, and a manager says to you, “I need to link you up with Carol. She’s amazing at this problem you’re trying to solve, and I bet the two of you would hit it off.”

And yup—you never sync up with Carol.

networking 101

People often have great intentions—and they do want you to discover a relationship with their friend or colleague. But life gets in the way, or perhaps they don’t know how to make an introduction. That’s because not everyone is a connector—but anyone can learn to be.

A connector is someone with a great facility for making friends and building relationships between the people around them. They tend to know many people, and more importantly, they know about other people. They take the time to learn of their network’s interests, strengths, weaknesses, and ambitions. Based upon these attributes, they link people together.

Being a good connector is a fabulous way to build your network. Because if you make a good connection, people will remember you for it. And they’re more likely to return the favor. Also, connecting others trains you to make those same connections for yourself. And lastly, successful associations and successful partnerships breed success in those around them. When people are doing well, creating opportunities and money, they bring in those close to them—their network. So if you can foster success in the people around you, you multiply the likelihood of bringing that success into your world.

With that in mind, here are some Networking 101 tips for becoming a connector and growing your network’s success.

Make Introductions Over Email, and Bow Out Quickly

An introduction over email can go a long way. First, it’s an introduction. Second, the people you are introducing already have each other’s contact information. But because of this, it’s vital to ask for permission first. “Hey, Charlie, I have someone I’d like you to meet. She’s interested in cooking, and you love to eat, so I think the two of you have a lot to discuss. May I share your email address with her?” Make sure both parties are okay with it before you send your first email.

It’s important to bow out of the conversation immediately. It might look something like this: “Hi, guys! Charlie, meet Sam. Sam, meet Charlie. Sam is an amazing cook, and she’s looking for a guinea pig. Charlie is a food critic who loves home-cooked meals. I thought the two of you should know each other. Please feel free to talk directly to each other from here on out—no need to CC me on any correspondence. Thanks, and enjoy!”

The reason you want to do this is two-fold: 1) You don’t want them to spam you; 2) You want them to foster a relationship with each other independently of you. If you stay involved, they will rely on their relationship with you to move forward instead of building ties with the other person.

networking 101

Networking 101: Make Introductions in Person, But Stick Around for a Minute

I was once at a party where a friend brought over someone he wanted me to meet. “Hey, guys. You’re both interested in the ketogenic diet. Discuss!” And then he walked away.

It was the most awkward 30 minutes of my life. We didn’t have anything to talk about! Just because two people have a common interest doesn’t necessarily mean they can talk to each other. Without a jumping-off point (“Hey, tell him about that time at that restaurant where that thing happened”) or a question (“Hey, Sam has a question about ketosis”) or complementary personalities, these kinds of introductions can leave everyone feeling awkward and very unlikely to form a relationship.

When making personal introductions at a party or other social gathering, stick around long enough to make sure the conversation flows. Ask leading questions. Gauge how well they are interacting. Once you’re sure things are going smoothly, feel free to quietly excuse yourself and mingle.

(To be continued!)