8 Networking Tips Used By The (Insane) Pros
Every single Cracked reader is a dynamic go-getter, a titan of whatever industry we choose. And if that isn't you, then get the fuck out of here. Because the rest of us know that "good" isn't good enough, and whatever acclaim we've received from the community is but a fraction of what we truly deserve. We must grow, and our careers must advance, and we must obtain more and more power, until we are bestride the world, and laugh as it begs us to watch where we go to the bathroom.
And we will look down and whisper "No."
But advancing ourselves and our careers is a tricky business, often involving distasteful activities like "competence" or "being pleasant." A better way involves a sinister activity known as "networking," an ancient art filled with awful conversation and fake, teeth-baring smiles. You'll probably have heard of this, and even heard of people who are good at this. I'm here to tell you that those people are monsters.
Successful ones, though. Here's how to become one of them.
Have An Elevator Pitch
Networking is basically an applied small-talk problem, and can be dealt with using the same techniques you use for navigating any situation in which you meet new people: Have a stock list of questions ready to ask anyone foolish enough to not run away. "What do you do?" and "Where do you work?" and "Have you seen the guy with the bacon-wrapped dates?"
"WHERE IS HE?"
With networking, though, not only can you come equipped with questions, but you can also come equipped with answers, simply because you can predict that the other person is going to be asking you the exact same things. So in advance of your planned networking excursion, take time to prepare some responses to common questions -- particularly, "What do you do?"
Also, "What's your problem?"
This is commonly called an elevator pitch, which basically means it's a short, two- or three-sentence spiel about who you are, what you do, or what you have to offer. It's supposed to be the length of a conversation you can have in an elevator. It is also, not coincidentally, equally as uncomfortable as a conversation you have in an elevator.
Don't Overdo It
Networking is an awkward and even kind of cynical activity. Instead of talking to someone because they're an interesting human being with their own hopes and dreams, you're talking to them to find out what they can do for you. If done poorly, it looks pretty gross. The trick is to kind of not draw any undue attention to your ulterior motives, and to make at least some effort to connect with people as human beings, rather than as career levers. Be cool, basically.
"So how was your fiscal year end?"
You need to be especially cool if you find someone whom you really want to get to know better. Although that powerful businessman / successful agent / cunning criminal attorney could be a very useful ally for your career, you don't want to follow them around or hog their time. It calls attention to your gross inhumanity, which instead of endearing yourself to this person, will ... dedear yourself from them.
Don't want that.
If you do kind of lose your cool and start overdoing things, you need to calm down. Maybe get a drink. Not to get drunk, of course. That'd be bad. But it will get a little bit of that ol' liquid confidence flowing, and give you something to do with your hands, and make you look a little more like James Bond.
"Shhho. How wash your fishcal year end?"
There, that's better. Feeling nice and calm now. Cool as a very chilly thing, indeed. Chilly. Chilly. Chilly. That's a funny-sounding word when you repeat it like that.
OK, so you got a little drunk. That's cool too.
A Hat With Booze
A hat with booze in it would be hilarious.
It's a networking masterstroke, really. Everyone would have to come up and talk to you. You'd be famous! You'd be that guy! The whole room would know what your problem is!
Yeah. This is a good plan, and it is well thought through.
Seriously, You're Overdoing It
OK, you're stalking that guy again. And he's definitely noticing, and he's definitely not comfortable with it.
Quick, go talk to someone else. It doesn't matter who. Talking to anyone else will make you look like a normal person who doesn't have booze strapped to his head. You there! Hahahahaha yeah, what's your fucking deal, unpowerful businessman? Yeah, keep talking, you fucking idiot.
By the way, you should have been saying all that under your breath.
OK, this is taking way too long. You've been networking for like 40 minutes now, and your career has gotten nowhere. Small talk is bullshit, and your courage and source of good ideas has never been higher. Now is the time for action, not thinktion, so let's get the fuck over to this person who can help us with whatever it is we do ...
... and throw them over our shoulder and sprint into the night, or the fog, or the hearts and minds of children everywhere. Whichever is convenient.
Put Them Back
OK, so that went well. But not super well.
Because of laws and morals, you're now in a lot of trouble. And even worse, it appears to be all for naught, as now this upset businessman / angry agent / substantially bruised criminal attorney has decided not to help your career. It turns out that networking is less about making people do something for you than it is about convincing them that you can do something for them.
I maybe should have started with that.
Anyway, because your new networking pal has declared loudly that they don't want to do you any favors if you're going to forever confine them to the crawlspace of your creepy mountain home, you're going to need an out. Experts agree that your best bet is to shriek "THIS WAS ALL A DREAM," hit your networking buddy over the head with a rake, and leave them in a Walmart parking lot. When they wake up -- and you're really going to want that to happen -- they'll believe the ordeal was all a dream and get on with their lives, none the wiser.
Send A Thank-You Note
Until you remind them. By sending them a carefully constructed thank-you note ...
... reminding them of the ordeal and your role in saving their lives, you will establish that you have done something for them, and that they now owe you something -- whether that's a business opportunity, a job interview, or a briefcase full of unmarked bills.
Don't be too formal; add some fun personal notes about their family and pets as well.
Congratulations on networking successfully. And as always, tell no one where you learned this.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and a dynamic, goal-oriented thought leader in today's networked just-in-time economy, thanks for asking. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
For more insane social tips from Chris Bucholz, check out 6 Steps To Meeting New People (For the Socially Intolerable), and learn how not to be an idiot on social media with 5 Social Networking Sins You Don't Know You're Committing.
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