How to Network Like a Jedi Master
Networking isn’t a new concept to the workforces of humanity, but it is a necessary practice that is constantly changing. Arguably, few things have had as much influence over the evolution of networking as telecommunications technology, and if com-tech is King, then the internet is undoubtedly the God Emperor. And while the development of rich social-media platforms has drastically simplified the initial processes of networking, this new culture of connectivity hasn’t arrived completely free of consequences.
Sure, it’s great that you can reach out to contacts at the press of a button, but what does that mean when you’re in a sea of qualified candidates across the globe? Similarly, if you’re an employer looking to improve team performance and you receive hundreds or thousands of resumes that meet demands on paper—how do you choose the single best person for the position? The short answer is networking, but not just any networking. To find the individuals or companies that match your own passion and culture, beyond the list of technical skill requirements, you need to be a networking Jedi.
Here are five quick tips to help you on your individual path to becoming a Jedi Master of networking, regardless of what your current midi-chlorian count is:
1. Have a Long-Term Plan
Networking is different from other friend and family type relationships. That is, most friend and family relationships work through a system of a give and take, which can sometimes be asymmetrical. Networking is less about tradeoffs and more about synergy. Having a broad, long-term plan in place will help guide you in the short-term, kind of like a force.
A networking Jedi feels the force flowing through them, focusing on where they want to be in the future, which also works to heighten their awareness of opportunities in the present. Knowing which direction that you’re heading could be the determining factor in attending the right conferences or recognizing the right people to talk to.
2. Don’t Forget Short-Term Prep
While your day-to-day interactions are going to be influenced by your long-term planning, even the most advanced networking Jedi masters know that preparation is key. Having a strategy will help make the most of your time where it counts.
When a networking Jedi attends an industry meeting or event, they make the most of the situation by doing their research beforehand. Instead of just showing up to the next big conference, try mapping out your day based on speakers you’re actually interested in and do a little research on them before you show up. Chances are, the people that you’re interested in meeting are going to be excited about attending the same events and being able to hold a conversation with them could go a long way.
3. Take Advantage of Social Tools
The internet is a great tool for reaching out to new people, and social media can be a good way to maintain contact over large distances, but social networking still has its limits. Building lasting relationships that exist entirely online is difficult but can pay large dividends if you stick with it. Think of social networking as a form of marketing as opposed to a replacement for more personal forms of contact.
If you really want to make the most of social networking, keep your public-facing social media profiles up-to-date. This allows potential contacts to reach you easier and provides a coherent message that will help attract the right kind of attention. However, a networking Jedi Master is also prepared to meet with contacts in person to move their relationship to the next level.
4. Get Up Close and Personal
Generally speaking, there is a process when trying to expand your network. However, when it comes to making a lasting connection with another individual, there is no substitute for meeting in person. Engaging your contacts face-to-face allows you to observe facial expressions, body language, mannerisms, and other information that can’t be communicated through any amount of social media profiles. And unless you’re dealing with a marketing Sith Lord, leaving a lasting impression is your best shot at creating networking opportunities for the future.
For the networking Jedi Master, social media is a great way to meet new contacts or maintain established relationships, but it is also important to solidify new relationships in person. By generating an emotional connection with contacts, you’ll have more quality associations in their minds and are more likely to come up in other professional conversations.
5. Strive for Quality over Quantity
Several years ago, the famous anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed that humans can only maintain meaningful relationships with approximately 100-250 other individuals. This phenomenon has been dubbed the Dunbar Number and while there is no way to test this theory outright, there does seem to be a lot of social institutions that confirm this notion. More recently, Dunbar also speculated that humans can only maintain 5 close friend relationships on average, which alludes to an interesting problem: if everyone has hundreds of contacts in their professional networks, many of them with similar credentials, who is going to pop into their heads when a networking opportunity arises?
A networking Jedi Master can recognize the futility of trying to be everything to everyone, all the time. The simple truth is that you won’t be able to be at the top of every list, but that is especially true if you’re spending all of your time trying to put yourself at the top of every list. By focusing your efforts on high-quality contacts, you’ll have more time to invest in yourself, ensuring that others look to you as a high-quality contact, too.