Networking for Success

with Adam Rifkin

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A network is a set of people and the connections between those people

Adam Rifkin

Co-Founder of PandaWhale, Most Networked, Giver

Lessons Learned

An introvert can behave like an extrovert, if s/he is willing to practice.

Relationships are formed by interactions, and each interaction brings with it what came before it.

Social networks act as an accelerant for connecting.

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Lesson: Networking for Success with Adam Rifkin

Step #10 Network: A network is a set of people and the connections between those people

When making an introduction to people its important to keep it short and sweet but to the point because everybody's busy and nobody wants more email. So the email should state a little bit of background about the two people. Specifically what unusual thing they might have in common. And then it should offer a sentence of "I'm introducing you because..." and then state the reason. And it could be for any number of things so don't predict that in advance but make it specific to the people and then get out of the way. Basically say "This is an introduction, please talk to each other," and then sign it, and then send it off. So short and to the point is much better and let them learn about each other on their own.

People have lots of ways that they can learn about each other now besides LinkedIn. There's Twitter and Facebook and lots of other things online. But keeping it short, that way they can refer back to it as well, is a good thing because I've noticed that a lot of people will go back and search for the introduction to find out what the context was. Context matters a lot.

Interactions happen between people and each of those interactions builds a relationship. So whether it’s a friendship or whether it’s a relationship with a family member or it’s a professional relationship, every interaction builds on what came before it. So I think of them all in terms of relationships, relationships between people.

My system for remembering? It’s very clear to me and to you, even if you talk to me for just a little while, that I don't remember everything. But I will do my best to tell you. "I don't remember the context of that, can you tell me?" Or actually looking through your old emails helps a lot. So I try to document what I can in email and that way I can go back and search for it later on as well. But I wouldn't say I have a bulletproof system. I think that nobody can remember everything and the key is to tell somebody when you don't know. And a person is usually more than willing to tell you, "Okay, this was the context."

You can even say, "I feel bad about this because my brain should be storing more than it’s storing, can you remind me of what this is again?" I've even had the case where I didn't remember somebody's name and said "I'm sorry but I do not remember your name. I know that we've had some good interactions before but, please, can you tell me your name?" And actually presenting it that way a person will always say "I understand. I've been there before myself. My name is..." fill in the blank. So I think the key is just to let the person know when you're drawing a blank.

I don't think anybody has a perfect system. I know that there are some people who are developing mobile applications where you can add more and more stuff to it. I know that some people use Evernote. I use an app called Refresh. But there's no perfect system. So the key is just to let people know when you don't know.

I am not an extrovert. In fact I'm very, to this day, a little shy and awkward. Meeting people is not my favorite thing. But in my job as a startup founder I meet a lot of people. So over time I've really trained myself to do the kinds of things we associate with extroverts. So an introvert can behave like an extrovert if they're willin

Adam Grant talks about me in terms of values, I think. I actually do make a judgment call when it comes to building a network. I feel like if you go about it the right way then it's good for everyone. If you go about it the wrong way then it cuts off opportunities not just for yourself but for others too. Ultimately my aim is to effect the value system of networking because if more people approach networking with more of a giving mentality with doing of favors for others, with paying it forward, the more not just the network you're in but the networks that it's connected to are going to thrive. I think that it's an important message of the book Give and Take, that you can be a giver and do business well, that you don't have to necessarily look at every business situation as, what's in it for me. If we get more people thinking about it in terms of that, it's going to make conditions better for all.

I would say that all the bad examples of networking that I have seen come down to, I don't have a word for it, let's call it "level jumping" where the person who is doing the networking assumes the relationship is deeper than it is. Because just like a two-year-old can't run like a five-year-old can, so it's same thing as with relationships. When your relationship is very early on, you can't ask for that relationship to run, you can't ask for big things. Relationships are about trust building and that trust is built little by little over time.

So I would say the key thing is basically empathy. It's basically be very mindful of the other person and what they are going through as well as how much time have you had to interact with them and how much trust have you built with them. I think that all of the sins of networking basically come down to not having that empathy or not being able to listen to what's the actual level of your relationship, jumping above that level for whatever reason.

It is hard when you're fundraising because you do have to ask people for help, but there are good ways to do it. I mean with fundraising in particular warm introductions are always better than cold calls always. So rather than just trying to introduce yourself directly to a person, figure out who you have in common and really make sure that the introduction is set up well so that you're not just some random person but you're actually presented as somebody who is known by somebody common to you.

I was networking before LinkedIn and Facebook, we still had email and so we could do some things online, but having LinkedIn and Facebook and even Twitter actually enables us to increase the number of people that we're connected to and can keep in touch with, as well as it's a good accelerator because you can go and read the latest about them on their Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. You don't have to start off with chit-chat you can actually jump right into "Hey I saw that you were working on the following and I know somebody could really be helpful to you there. Would you like an introduction?" So it helps in both maintaining a higher quantity of relationships but also quality of relationships because rather than lots of chit-chatting you can focus on other things you have in common.

I think of a network as a garden where you cultivate it little by little. You plant seeds. You give it some attention. You weed out the parts that aren't working. You add water and you tend to it and you cultivate it. And over time all of those little actions really add up to a wonderful garden. So I think about it as something that you tend to every day. A network is basically a set of people and the connections between those people. Some of the connections are really strong because you've known each other for a while and you have a deep trust. Most of the connections are very weak. They are an acquaintance that you met once or maybe not even at all. You have just talked to them online.

There is a third type of tie and Adam Grant, the Wharton professor really talks about this one a lot because there's a lot of strength in this one. Its dormant ties and dormant ties are people that you used to have a deep relationship with but because a lot of time has passed, you haven't really stayed in touch with them. So as a result some of that trust has dissipated, and maybe some of your understanding of them has dissipated.

But the nice thing is, is that connection hasn't gone away. It just is lying in a dormant state and so one of the things to practice actually is reengaging with dormant ties and not just doing it when you need something from the person. But really going and reconnecting with people that you've known in the past to catch up and the longer that you live, the more of these people that you have. So it's something you can actually practice every day.

I try to make a habit of it of, every day at least one person who I haven't talked to in a few years, I try to reconnect with and sometimes I reconnect with them on Facebook. Sometimes it'll be by email. Sometimes I'll call them. It really depends on the nature of my relationship with the person. But just because I haven't talked to them for years, doesn't mean that we can't go back and rekindle that relationship and actually strengthen it at that point. Your dormant ties there are more of them than you think because everybody did go to school and everybody does have a work past.

All those people are somewhere doing something right now and I'm sure some of them could actually use your help. So one of the good ways to reengage with somebody if you haven't talked with them for a while is just to say "Hey, I was thinking of you and I was wondering if there was anything I could do for you." That actually opens up the conversation, in almost every case, and sometimes I'm surprised at how much I am able to help people who otherwise would never have reached out to me.

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