Here’s something you may not know about me: I worked in nightlife for years. In NYC, most freelance workers have to take night jobs to support themselves, and I chose the job that made the most cash (obviously). Despite a number of nights that I wanted to kill the sloppy drunk guy who insisted on calling my “baby” and telling me he was going to give me the “best tip ever” (this is the kiss of death – this indicates that you will not get tipped) …I was at the hottest clubs, which meant that there were a lot of successful people coming through the door. So it was here that besides learning the skill of how to not punch the girl in the ugly sequins dress pushing me in the crowd, that I also learned the very valuable skill how to network.
70 percent of all jobs are found through networking.
This means that putting yourself in front of those who can help you out is key, because even if those you meet don’t have a job for you, they may have something in the future or have other friends in your industry who are hiring or who can help you out. Lucky for you, you don’t have to get a job at a nightclub in order to meet the right people.
Find networking opportunities:
* LinkedIn is an amazing networking resource for discovering the hidden connections between your network and the rest of the world, throughout many different industries. Plus you can now follow companies to get valuable information and updates.
* Twitter & Facebook make it easy to follow industry leaders and see what they’re talking about (they may even follow you back and begin a relationship).
* Check out association websites for conferences that are happening in your area or professional sites like Meetup.com.
* Strengthen your existing connections: Get in touch with old bosses, friends or people you went to school with. All it takes is a quick phone call or email to find out what they’re doing and to let them know what you’re up to. That nerdy guy in your tech class is probably a stud now – hopefully you were nice to him. You can also check out networking events through your school’s alumni association.
* Be open minded: What I’ve learned is that being open to just meeting new people in general is the most important networking tool you can have. At your gym, the coffee shop … you can meet influential people in any situation, so always carry your business card – who knows, that person you see every day with their poodle at the dog park could be your next boss or business partner.
* Be generous: Remember that valuable relationships are mutually beneficial, so always think of ways that you can also help others. Sometimes just offering to help them out with a small favor will help to establish good relationships and open them up to wanting to help you in return when you need it.
* Follow up: If you’ve gotten someones contact info or business card, make sure that you stay in touch. If you come across an article that may interest them, or maybe a cool event in their area – reach out and let them know about it. You could also use Facebook to comment on peoples photos or events – any excuse to keep you fresh in people’s minds.
* Don’t apologize: When it’s time to ask for help, apologizing signals a lack of confidence. You have nothing to be sorry about – if you have established a decent relationship, you should not feel bad about seeing if someone can help you out.
Working at night and having to talk to people gave me the skills I needed to be able to start conversations with strangers, but I know that for some, this doesn’t come easily. If you’re shy, it may make sense to take a public speaking class – or maybe offer to be the greeter for an event so that you are forced to interact with people. The key is to just always be yourself, and when you get talking about something you’re passionate about, people will be engaged. Schmoozing isn’t just for sleazy people in the entertainment industry – see how far just being nice to people can get you.