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Weekly 3: Tips for more effective networking

Summary: Find your "superconnectors." Weave a supportive web. Write better cold emails. (~6 min read)

Idea Journal Weekly 3

October 14 · Issue #56 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Find your “superconnectors.” Weave a supportive web. Write better cold emails. (~6 min read)

#1. Who are the linchpins of your professional network?
Writer Shannon Dunlap and leadership professor Brian Uzzi write in the Harvard Business Review that if you examine your professional network, you’ll notice that some of your contacts have had a disproportionate impact on your opportunities and overall success.
They call these contacts superconnectors: people who have large and varied networks, and who generously make introductions.
Here’s how to identify the superconnectors in your network in 3 steps:
  1. Create a worksheet like the one in the above image with 2 column headings: “Key Contact” and “Who Introduced You?”
  2. In the Key Contact column, list the names of the 20 people who have been most responsible for your success up to now. They could be extended family members, former colleagues and teachers, friends, etc.
  3. Now think about who introduced you to each Key Contact, and put that person’s name in the Who Introduced You? column. What you’re looking for here are names that show up more than once. As you can see in the above example, Philip is a superconnector. (If you don’t have any superconnectors, think about your broader network and who is likely to be one, and how you can develop a stronger relationship with them.)
Once you have identified your superconnectors, ask yourself the following questions:
  • How did you meet them?
  • If you have more than one superconnector in your network, are they in similar industries or roles?
  • When is the last time you were in touch with them?
Because successful relationships are based on mutual benefits, when you think about your superconnectors also ask yourself: Do you know someone who can help them in some way?
#2. What's your scene, and who's in it?
One way to view networking is as an effort to build a series of one-on-one, mutually-beneficial relationships.
From another perspective, it’s the process of building a network of people around yourself and your interests, so that ultimately the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Author and entrepreneur James Altucher writes in a blog post that your ability to be happy and successful stems entirely from the quality of people you surround yourself with: “You are your scene.”
In the above infographic, he recommends 6 steps for creating and building your scene.
An effective scene is more than just a group of people with shared interests – each person in the scene builds the others up, shares their work, and makes introductions that help increase each member’s chances of success.
Here are some examples of successful scenes:
  • Writers William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, despite having different styles, helped to publish each other’s work and launched the Beat Generation, one of the most influential artistic movements of its time.
  • Comedians Louis C.K., Larry David, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld “all worked together in no-name clubs for years, each opening for the other over and over again, until they broke out one by one and pulled their talented friends along with them.”
  • The PayPal Mafia is a group of former PayPal employees who went on to create or become major investors in some of the most successful companies in Silicon Valley, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Palantir, Tesla, and Yelp.
#3. Master the cold email
Adam Grant is the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School, and has been celebrated as one of the world’s 10 most influential thinkers on management.
He writes in a LinkedIn post that once he became the kind of person popular enough to receive a lot of cold emails from strangers, he noticed that some of the messages were more effective than others.
Here are his 6 principles for writing cold emails to important people:
1. Write a compelling subject line: People are more likely to read subject lines that create curiosity or provide utility. When the recipient isn’t busy, an intriguing subject line can draw them in. But when they’re busy, their curiosity fades and they pay more attention to the practical utility that the email subject line suggests.
Here are a few examples of effective email subject lines that Grant has received:
  • Curiosity: “Your book kept me up all night”
  • Utility: “Applying your techniques to recovering addicts”
2. Explain why they’re the right person: Good emails highlight why the recipient is the best person for your particular message or request. It’s worth writing a sentence or two explaining that you know about their interests or work, and explaining how it’s relevant to you.
3. Show that you’ve done your homework: Don’t ask questions that could be answered by doing a quick Google search.
4. Do you have something unusual in common?: Highlighting “uncommon commonalities” can bring strangers closer together. As Grant puts it: “Think of the last time you traveled abroad and met someone from your hometown. If you met at home, the connection wouldn’t stand out as unique, but on foreign soil, you’re the only two people from there, so you feel a sense of closeness.”
5. Make your request short and specific: Don’t ramble.
6: Express gratitude: Grant writes that his least favorite emails are those that make demands instead of expressing appreciation (“We should definitely meet”). He’s found in his research that “people provide more extensive and useful help when it’s an enjoyable choice than when it’s driven by perceived pressure or obligation.”
Quote of the Week
“Imagine you got laid off from your job today. Who are the ten people you’d email to solicit their advice on what to do next? Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything specifically.”
- LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and writer Ben Casnocha in their book The Start-up of You
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