How to Network Naturally: Easy Ways to Connect with People
How many of us have heard career experts telling us to “go out there and network?”
What does that actually mean? They never seem to specify.
So we end up going to 1 or 2 pointless networking events, which actually turn out to be a bunch of unemployed people looking for jobs, until we realize the pointlessness of random networking. We stop going. But we keep hearing about the importance of our network, and we hear about how most jobs are found through personal contacts. Pretty soon, it becomes clear to us that it’s WHO you know, not WHAT you know. But we have no idea how to actually turn that realization into something actionable.
There’s a game going on around us that we don’t even see.
And today, I want to show you exactly how to decode it — along with the specific email scripts to use. If you’ve been waiting for the real story on how networking actually works, this is it.
The funny thing is, most career ‘experts’ have no specific advice about networking because they don’t know how to do it. They give high-level advice (‘add value!’) without understanding how people can turn that into action. And here we are, the sad recipients of this useless information, wondering why others seem to get ahead, but we can’t. What if we don’t even HAVE a network?
Look at these regrets
I like to study regrets. It makes me understand what people want to do, but cannot or will not. Look at these regrets I found in my Dream Job research of 20,000+ people:
‘I regret not taking advantage of the multiple networking events that occur due to the type of business my company is in. I could have made a ton of networking contacts that could have facilitated career advancement.’
‘After ~11 years, I find myself in role largely dictated by the first position I took out of college…. I’ve looked into other positions but found a reverse grass-is-greener problem — everything else seems boring or unimportant. My skills outside of my career are varied and vibrant, always expanding, but something about the daily grind has ground me down.’
‘I wish that 4 years ago when I realized I wanted to make a career change and go into psychology, I hadn’t been deterred by the application process. I could be partially through my graduate degree by now, rather than trying to figure out how I’m going to change careers, get married, and start a family. I balked because I didn’t know who to get recommendations from.’
‘Taking two full years to realize that being a “self-starter” wasn’t just a trait you were born with – it’s something that’s cultivated, aggressively…I took the “appropriate” career path, but sat back waiting for a job to come to me.’
‘I wish I would have started networking and talking to people earlier. I had always assumed that accomplishments were only worth it if you did it completely alone, but every successful person around me has a large network of people that has helped them to get there. I don’t have to do everything myself; there’s no shame in getting other people to help, especially at the stuff I’m not good at.’
‘I wish I had started early when it came to networking to find a job/make contacts while I was an undergrad…. I felt a little betrayed by my schools career development office – but have realized that I am the only person that is 100% looking out for me and my career.’
These are extraordinarily insightful and honest.
What you’re seeing is the difference between what’s IMPORTANT and what’s URGENT. It’s always urgent to respond to that email, or to watch that TV show, or to do any of the 50 things we’re confronted with each day.
But doing the important things is more difficult. Cultivating a network, managing our finances, really discovering what we love — these are things that are more important than any email. Yet we don’t do them because we wait to ‘figure it out’ later.
That’s why we put it off for one more day, then another and another. Pretty soon, 10 years have gone by and we’re in a similar job as yesterday. Or we’ve hopped from job to job, never really knowing what you want, how to find it, and how to connect it to a Dream Job. Some of us are even making 6 figures, but still not where we want to be.
So what do we do? Usually, nothing. We claim we need to ‘figure it out’ some day. For some of us, we get motivated like a sputtering engine — sending out 20 or 30 resumes in a month — but when we don’t hear back, we settle back down, resigned to our place in life.
Not cool. Not cool at all.
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We can do more than regret
I wanted to show you that you can actually take the stuff you ‘know’ you should do — managing your money, earning more, negotiating your salary, finding your passion, and even finding your Dream Job — and do it today.
Most of the time, you don’t have to wait until some mythical day when you have enough experience.
But I wasn’t sure people would actually care. See, people ‘claim’ they want to find a mentor — and I actually thought about developing a course on how to find amazing mentors — but nobody wants to pay for something like that. They ‘claim’ they want to lose weight…but adherence rates to lifestyle changes are incredibly difficult. It turns out that changing our behavior is really hard — even when we genuinely want something.
But I don’t give a damn. I knew some people would find massive value in it. The rest would skim along, nodding and saying, ‘Yeah, I should really do that…’ while others would be soaring ahead. And that’s fine — I’d rather work with the small group of people who take action than a massive group of unwashed masses who want tactic after tactic.
So let me show you the ins and outs of networking. This is material you’ve never seen anywhere else before.
How networking REALLY works
I mentioned before that I’ve been testing my Dream Job material for years. What I didn’t mention is that I’ve been testing it in ways most people don’t realize.
Here’s a segment on negotiation I did on ABC, where I tested a small tweak in negotiation advice I’d discovered. I waited for results from viewers, as well as sending this to a few of my readers to try out.
‘I was a fresh college graduate making around $32k a year. After doing a bit of studying and really putting what I learned into action, I’m now making six figures (a year and a half later). I’m revealing this because I think literally anyone can do this if they just get up and take action. It’s really cliche, but that’s what it all comes down to.
‘Taking a testing approach to a project or goal can move me much more quickly to action. By choosing to take INCREMENTAL steps, the stakes don’t feel so high for a given activity. Fear of failure is reduced and it becomes much easier to stay motivated for taking action.’
-Logan Y., Dream Job Elite graduate
Testing applies to networking, as well.
Most people think networking is about being sleazy, slimy, and scammy. They imagine the slick-haired business guy flitting around a room, handing out business cards, then winking and saying ‘Catch ya later!’ Wrong, wrong, wrong. This is a false dichotomy people concoct to avoid learning how networking really works. It’s easier to be disgusted by networking than to learn how to do it right — a classic preemptive defense mechanism.
Unfortunately, the dismissive pleasure is short-lived. While you say ‘Networking is sleazy,’ other people are getting ahead — ethically and rapidly.
I call this ‘Natural Networking,’ because it truly is natural. In fact, many of the journalists and CEOs I know will read this. They won’t be alarmed or skeeved out. THAT is how comfortable I am revealing these methods — because not only are they effective, but I can share them publicly.
The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s far more powerful to spend a week trying to meet with one person than a week trying to go to random networking events. In this case, ‘less is more’ is true — it’s far more effective to focus and meet interesting, relevant people than to blindly throw your business cards into the wind. I don’t even think I have business cards any more.
Top performers build their network BEFORE they need it. That’s how they can get laid off on a Monday and have a better job lined up by Friday. Read that sentence again, please — it means that top performers are comfortable meeting people and cultivating relationships with no specific purpose. In fact, it’s almost always to help the other person!
Now, the Dream Job course covers natural networking in depth, including the specific words to use in emails and even in coffee-shop conversations. Today, I want to show you how to get started. And I intend for this free material to rival any paid material on natural networking, anywhere.
The first step to natural networking
We’ve all heard about ‘informational interviews’ but few of us do it. What is it? How does it work? And how can you use subtle techniques to make an informational interview help you — and more importantly, the other person — even if you have seemingly little to offer?
First, an informational interview is an opportunity to meet someone you’re curious about and learn from them. Maybe you’re curious what a Product Manager really does. Maybe you want to know what the culture at IDEO is like. That’s what an informational interview allows you to do.
Second, THIS IS NOT WEIRD. What’s weird is a bunch of whiny 20- and 30-somethings doing the same damned mindless resume submitting, then wondering why they don’t have jobs. Are you seriously kidding me? Informational interviews are one of the most powerful techniques in your Dream Job arsenal, yet because they seem ‘weird’, people don’t do them. You continue thinking they’re weird while I sail around in a flying car paid for by my Dream Job, which I got because I used effective informational interviews. I hate you.
Next, people WANT to meet with smart people. That means you, if you send a great email, have incisive questions, and are interesting. People do not want to meet with idiots, which includes people who…
- Ask worthless questions (‘Dear Ramit, what should I do with my money?? Uh….read the last 8 years of my site’)
- Ramble (‘Hi I’m blah blah and I’m really interested in blah blah and once when I was a kid we went to the park and blah blah and…well I guess this got really long, so…yeah. Thanks for reading.)
- Only talk about themselves (Hi Mr. Senior Exec at a Fortune 100 company, let me tell you about my background, what I studied in school, what I’m interested in….? You are there to LEARN FROM THE IMPORTANT PERSON. NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU AND YOUR STUPID INTERESTS).
Ok, so let’s talk about what makes a great informational interview.
Here are the people who have reached out to me, stood out, met with me, and I’ve helped them find jobs (or even hired them myself). By the way, I’m not that important, but I’m just using myself as an example of someone who gets a lot of emails/day (600+) so it’s challenging to reach me.
- They reached out through a warm contact. If they didn’t have one, they spent the time to find one by studying who I know. (The info is out there, you lazy asses. Facebook, Twitter, 8 million pages I’ve written, the ‘Acknowledgements’ page of my book. And this isn’t just about me, it’s about any busy person you want to meet.)
- They explained any similarities we had. An alum reaches out to me who seems genuine? I’ll almost always take a phone call or, if convenient, a coffee meeting. Maybe they grew up in my hometown, or went to my high school. Even I have a small semblance of emotion, leading me to occasionally act like a normal human being.
- They reached out with a BRIEF, CONCISE EMAIL. I will show you the exact words to use in my Dream Job course so you don’t instantly eliminate yourself.
- They met with me and asked very insightful questions. GOOD: I noticed you did XYZ. It’s interesting because Very-Important-Person took a different approach and did ABC. What was your thinking? BAD: I’m so unhappy at my job. What should I do with my life? Ugh. Get a bowl of soup and a therapist. That’s not the kind of question you ask at an informational interview.
- They asked questions for 90% of the informational interview, interjecting insightful comments once in a while, showing that they’d done their homework. In the last 10%, they mentioned what they were working on and asked for advice. When they were especially impressive/likeable, I offered to introduce them to people I know, or outright offered to hire them.
- They never outright asked for a job, which you never, ever do in an informational interview. They also gave me an ‘out’ in case I couldn’t/didn’t want to help them.
- NOTE: These were not all the most socially smooth people. Some of them were downright socially awkward. Doesn’t matter! Sometimes, awkward can be endearing! Not everyone is Rico Suave. But the very best showed a remarkable level of preparation, which anyone can do — but few actually do.
As a result, many of these people stood out among tens of thousands of others who left comments/emails/tweets. Not only do the very best top performers have an uncanny ability to reach extremely busy people, but they can turn a one-time meeting into a long-term relationship. And over time, that is worth more than almost any technical skill or amount of experience.
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Use these email scripts to meet anyone
Follow these steps:
- Brainstorm list of 10 people you’d like to could connect with. Start with these people: People who have a job title you’re interested in learning more about. People who work at companies you’re interested in potentially working at. And people who are doing interesting things you want to learn more about (e.g., you read about them in a magazine/blog post).
- Get their email address. If you can’t find this you fail at life. But you read this site so I suspect you’re cool.
- Use these scripts — from an upcoming course I’m launching.
How to set up an informational interview
An informational interview is an opportunity to meet someone who works in a position or industry you’d like to work in, where you can ask them questions about their job and get the inside scoop.
Never, ever directly ask for a job in an informational interview. That’s a big no-no. You can turn an informational interview into a potential job opportunity, but only if you approach it wisely. Here’s the first step of that process: The email introduction for an informational interview.
By the way, the best place to get informational interviews is via your alumni association. People who went to the same college have a bond with each other, even decades later.
Subject: Michigan State grad — would love to chat about your work at Deloitte
My name is Samantha Kerritt. I’m a ’04 grad from Michigan State (I know you were a few years before me) and I came across your name on our alumni site. [TELL THEM HOW YOU CAME ACROSS THEIR NAME SO YOU DON’T SEEM LIKE A CREEP]
I’d love to get your career advice for 15-20 minutes. I’m currently working at Acme Tech Company, but many of my friends work in consulting and each time they tell me how much they love their job, I get more interested. [THE FIRST SENTENCE SAYS WHAT SHE WANTS. MOST PEOPLE ARE FLATTERED THAT PEOPLE WANT/VALUE THEIR ADVICE.
Most of them have told me that if I’m interested in consulting, I have to talk to someone at Deloitte. Do you think I could pick your brain on your job and what motivated you to choose Deloitte? I’d especially love to know how you made your choices after graduating from Michigan State. [THE PHRASE ?PICK YOUR BRAIN? IS ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO ASK FOR ADVICE AND FLATTER, AND “MICHIGAN STATE” REINFORCES SHARED BOND]
I can meet you for coffee or at your office…or wherever it’s convenient. I can work around you! [THE BUSY PERSON IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU. TREAT THEM ACCORDINGLY.]
Would it be possible for us to meet? [A BUSY PERSON CAN SIMPLY REPLY TO THIS WITH A “YES” — PERFECT. NOTE THAT I DIDN’T ASK FOR THE TIME/LOCATION AS THAT’S TOO MUCH INFORMATION IN THE FIRST EMAIL.]
How to ask for recommendations for people to talk to
Hope all is well.
If you recall, we spoke a few months ago when I was exploring new career opportunities in information security (I was your student at the time). Thanks again for agreeing to be my reference! [REMIND THE BUSY PERSON HOW YOU KNOW EACH OTHER
I was browsing the the Acme Career site the other day and the Research Scientist role caught my eye. I think it?d be perfect for me considering my work on insider threat-related projects at Current Company. [NOTE THAT THE FOCUS OF THIS EMAIL IS ASKING FOR RECOMMENDATIONS, NOT DIRECTLY ASKING FOR A JOB. JOHN UNDERSTANDS YOU?RE LOOKING FOR WORK AND DOESN?T WANT TO BE PUT ON THE SPOT. IF HE WANTS TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE POSITION, HE WILL.]
From what I remember, it sounds pretty similar to the work you do at Acme. By any chance, do you know of anyone there that you think I should chat with? I?d love to learn more about the role so I can see if it?s the right fit for me.
If not, no problem ? just wanted to keep you in the loop. Thanks again for all your help!
You now have both the tactics (the email scripts) as well as a strategic approach (narrowing down your networking, focusing on helping others, and understanding the power dynamic).
All in one day.
The powerful results of Natural Networking
Don’t just listen to me. Look at these student results:
I was about to close the loop with some of my [contacts] when they both contacted me. It appears I have allies willing to help me out… it?s crazy how rapidly this stuff changes.
– Chris C., Dream Job Elite graduate
?I used to think I was really good at networking, but this module showed me what a novice I was. It took natural networking to a whole different (and higher) level. I always got stuck with what to do after I sent the thank you notes from my coffee meetings. Now I know how to follow up with the closing the loop technique. This would have taken me YEARS to figure out, if at all.?
– Annie L., Dream Job Elite graduate
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
I have over 10+ hours of detail on Natural Networking in the upcoming course, including more email scripts and a powerful tactic that has resulted in invitations to international conferences, TV appearances, and job offers. (I’ll be sharing more of this with the people on my free Dream Job Insider’s list. Click here to join.)
To Do Today
What will you do with this? Will you nod and shrug and say, Yeah, I should really do this…?
Or will you identify 10 people, emailing all of them, knowing that 2-3 will get back to you and agree to talk?
This isn’t URGENT. But it is important. And a year from now, you can be in the same place…or you can have built relationships with superb people, helping them, and knowing that they want to help you, too.
I want you to take action today. I want you to know that natural networking is not about being sleazy, slimy, or scammy. It’s about helping others and doing more preparation than anyone else so they want to help you.
Brainstorm 10 people you want to or should meet. Get their email addresses. Use the scripts above. Schedule and take the coffee meetings. Use second script to ask for referrals for other informational interviews.
I gave you one pitch in this post: “Can I pick your brain?? I cover more in the Dream Job course. But today I want to challenge you to come up with great pitches yourself. Leave a comment with your best one below.