For some reason there exists this perception that I enjoy to network, which I know can be tied back to the fact that sometimes I talk a lot. Probably too much. The latter is true, but when it comes to the former nothing could be further from the truth.
I don't like to network. Yes, I do like to talk but only about things that I am excited about. And while I do possess the ability to walk up to a stranger and talk to them (it should be noted that this doesn't apply to women who I find to be attractive), I'd rather not.
Still, I network. I meet new people every week who sometimes become friends, business partners or in the rarest of all cases - cat sitters.
IdeaMensch is my primary way of making professional contacts and probably the easiest networking tool ever invented. When I need to get to know someone, I ask to interview them on IdeaMensch. That can open just about any door and is how I got to connect with people like Seth Godin or Craig Newmark. On the other hand, every week I also get pitched by folks who want to get interviewed on IdeaMensch which is equally as effective of a networking tool.
But not everybody is going to build a professional interview site (please don't, people will drop IdeaMensch the minute they see an alternative) so here is my other networking strategy - one that I have used successfully and with great joy ever since I graduated college.
Meet someone new for coffee every week.
I started doing just that when I moved to Seattle and tried to break into the agency business. And since I didn't have a network, I mostly asked my buddy Jerry to connect me to some of his professional contacts. I got to meet all kinds of people, and ultimately was able to break into the agency business.
But, it's not uncommon for job seekers to meet people in certain industries or companies for coffee. So, here comes the ultimate networking secret.
Meet someone new for coffee every week. Even when you're not looking to get something out of it. When someone asks to pick your brain, go to coffee with them. When one of your buddies talks about the great work one of his other buddies is doing, ask to meet her for coffee. A former client, coffee. A potential new client, coffee. Someone you might want to hire, coffee. An ex-girlfriend, voicemail. Someone who might want to hire you, coffee.
You get the point.
Do it every week, and you will be absolutely amazed about the professional and personal relationships that will come out of it.
Plus, coffee is cheap, tastes great and stimulates your digestive system.
image credit, in case you're looking for a more interesting coffee date than the ones described above