As cofounder, chairman and CEO of Apple Inc. with a net worth of $10.2 billion at the time of his death, Steve Jobs was one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time. The company he co-created continues to receive worldwide notoriety and his contributions to computer technology have had a profound global impact.
…even if you’re an Attractive Introvert
Most networking tips that I have found categorize people as introverts or extroverts. Though nowhere near model status, I am often told that I am more attractive than the typical female with a Ph.D. in Engineering. In fact, if I really want to feel special, all I have to do is indulge in my love of theory and attend a very cool conference on tax law or heuristic reasoning. But I digress. In the real world of networking, the playing field becomes much more difficult. As someone who often receives LinkedIn messages unrelated to the topics of chaos theory or economic modeling that we discussed during our meeting, but more focused on physical appearance, I thought it was time to share my perspective on networking.
Tip 1: Smile, Smile, Smile
When you step into an event, you only have a few seconds before people start judging you. And yes, this judgment will continue until you leave. The easiest way to immediately reduce the burden is to smile. Smiling makes you appear, at minimum, like you want to be at the event. But it also makes you seem more approachable. As the attractive person, you will get a lot of people thinking you are unapproachable or uninterested simply based on your looks. So you must combat this immediately by being comfortable, smiling and accepting. On another note, everyone likes being around more attractive individuals. You will notice that as long as you smile, you will always have someone to talk to.
Tip 2: Figure out Your Sweet Spot
I’ve figured out over the years that the large unstructured networking events are never fruitful for me. I often get tired at the ruthless game and prefer meaningful relationships. As such, I primarily attend more intimate gatherings like breakfast meetings and luncheons for causes that are important to me. I recently attended a small breakfast meeting and was immediately offered a sweet business opportunity. My ROI was based on my confident and focused personality. You, too, must figure out your sweet spot and learn to maximize it to your advantage.
Tip 3: Focus on the Eccentric -
One of my previous co-workers remarked how I could always get along with people that others considered difficult. The funny thing is that difficult people are more transparent. They haven’t figured out the strategy necessary to manipulate different situations to their advantage. The elements that they value are straight-forward. If they value intellect, quality, timeliness, lack of small talk, organization etc…one can typically figure it out and appeal to their needs. This category of people, especially if they have a great deal of power and authority, has always been my sweet spot in a networking environment.
Tip 4: Befriend A Beautiful person
The attractive person, either introvert or extrovert, can always easily associate with other attractive people. I find that they are the nicest people at an event. I typically always ask them something exceedingly complex. Attractive people usually don’t get to engage on intellectual topics as much as others. Remember, they showed up at that same quirky event as you, so they probably have the same interests. It is fairly easy to build a genuine relationship by treating them in the same way that you would anyone else. As a result, most of them lighten up and yearn to learn more and build quality relationships.
Tip 5: Gain Confidence by Seeking out the Wall-flower
There is always a shy person at an event to talk to. This person is usually found standing alone by the wall or at some random table, and can be easily identified by their lack of interaction with others at the event. If they are still in the mindset of networking, they will be easy to start with, though they may or may not have to offer what you seek in terms of networking. Unfortunately, everyone is more likely to do business with the confident individuals. So your goal is to not allow people the opportunity to confuse your introvert ways with shyness.
Tip 6: Strategize on How to Connect to the Powerful Person
Prior to attending the event, you can research and strategize on whom you would like to connect with. You can listen to your colleagues and other event attendees if you are still unsure about your target. Typically, people in power have razor like focus and give preference to those with some type of unique character and experiential trait. They may be intrigued by someone who is creative, clever, witty, eccentric, quick, etc. Notice who they are, who they interact with, their personality, and be clever, confident and mysterious… Usually they will display elements of eccentricity, beauty, loneliness, and you can just use the tips discussed above to deepen your connection.
Tip 7: Have a Great Home Base
If possible, I try to have a home base that can snap me out of my need to retreat when I attend an event. This home base is typically a familiar person or group that offers a bit of reprieve from the need to be attentive, engaging, and charismatic while networking. The only issue with a home base is that you cannot stay with them for very long. If you do, you probably will not meet any new connections and you could have avoided the entire event all together. So use your home base as a last resort to an overly complex or involved networking connection. Know that you have the option but don’t run for it at the first sign of discomfort.
Tip 8: Quality over Quantity
Always remember that quality is still the most important characteristic of any networking attempt. There are many people that try to collect as many business cards as possible at an event. But, in my experience, the genuine connections are the only ones that matter. In fact, a good friend that is extremely outgoing told me that if he meets more than six people at an event, he hasn’t spent enough time nurturing each relationship. So remember to connect with the people that will aid most in furthering your networking experience, and provide the best returns on the time and effort you have invested.