Tip one: be genuinely curious about other people. What do they like most about their work? What is their dream customer or client? But don’t stop with just their work life. Find out what their paycheck funds: do they have a kid in competitive cheerleading? Are they passionate about playing the piano in a blues band on the weekends? Keep digging til you find something in common with them. Remember: we have much more in common with each other at our very core, in our DNA, than any outward differences.
Tip two: learn to say what you do in sixty seconds, without using jargon from your own industry. Who do you help, and what do they get out of it? A pipefitter doesn’t need to tell you that she uses a size-whatever wrench on a size-whatever pipe when installing your size-whatever toilet. She just needs to let you know that she fixes leaky sinks and her customers save money on their water bill. Nobody cares HOW you do it (even if the technical aspect of your trade is what makes what you do beautiful to you.)
Neither of these are easy. Not at all. We are much more interested in ourselves, naturally. We have been more interested in ourselves ever since we learned to ask mommy for food and since everyone cheered when we took our first step. We’re wired to think about ourselves, what we want, and how we like to do things. But so is everyone else. If you want to be a good networker, learn to be interested in what others are interested in: namely, themselves.
Bonus tip: You’re always networking. Practice these when you go to the grocery store. (Put your phone in your pocket and ask the person in line behind you a question about themselves.) Practice them when you go to your church, mosque, synagogue or other house of worship. Practice them when you get together with extended family. Practice 100 times before you hand out your first business card, or, alternatively, practice until you get asked for one before ever handing one out. If you get lots of practice in these places, you’ll get more comfortable with it before you go to a “networking” event, where, guess what, you’ll find a lot of people who have not practiced it… and you can model it for them. This will make you a leader… and people love to network with networking leaders!