App Development

How to Network: 9 Helpful Tips for Developers

Recently, I sent an email to the WillowTree team after being asked by a number of people what I do to network. Questions were typically things like, “Where do you go to network?” and “How do you network?” Honestly, I never actually thought too much about it. I do not feel I do anything special, nor do I feel I do anything someone else could not easily do themselves. So, I decided to put together a set of guidelines modeled after what I do to network that I hope will help others. I am not claiming I am an expert or that there is any science to my methods, but I do think they work!

For many of us, the mere notion of “networking” conjures visions of awkward and uncomfortable interactions with complete strangers. The small talk. The feigning interest. The putting of oneself out there for rejection. It’s all strange.

However, everything is connected. I bet you can trace any relationship or significant event in your life, personally or professionally, to a string of seemingly insignificant introductions and interactions. In fact, at WillowTree, we can trace every team member and project back to a chain of meetings and events that started with improving and growing our network. And that is just it, whether you accept it or not, you are a human being (an inherently social animal) and we are already networking, naturally.

Also, like anything else, networking is a skill that takes practice to improve. I, Michael Prichard, am an introvert by my genetic wiring - believe it or not! Especially in situations that put me outside my comfort zone (for example, “networking” events, “business” conferences, and the like). It took many years of trial and error and, at times, all-out rejection to realize that meeting people in those situations actually can be a lot of fun. If you look at it from a different point of view you will soon understand it really isn’t that bad.

Here are my tips on how to network.

  1. Everyone feels as awkward as you. Once you understand this, talking to a stranger at an event becomes quite easy. You are actually making things less uncomfortable by breaking the ice first. Quickly, you will realize that everyone is relieved to be talking to someone.

  2. Never, ever, sell when you meet someone. Be authentic and, for what it’s worth, be interested in what they have to say. That said, if they turn out to break this rule, then feel free to politely end the conversation and go meet someone new.

  3. Try to get them to talk more. People love to talk, believe me. Listen for topics that you can have a real conversation about. If you find yourself making small chat for too long, it’s time to move on.

  4. Once you make a connection, be authentic. Being “real” about your experiences will lead others to ask you more. Your authenticity will imprint itself on the psyche of the person you are talking to and, at some point, they will remember there was something special and unique about you and your experiences–both personally and professionally.

  5. Listen more than speak, but also try to learn what that person is looking for and how you can help. At the end of the day, we need to give in order to get. Once you figure this out, be helpful as much as practicable.

  6. Before you end the conversation, always ask if there are other people you should meet. Ask the person you’ve been talking to for the names of three more individuals and if they can make warm introductions on your behalf. You would be surprised how far that goes.

  7. Get follow up information. Give them your business card or connect with them on LinkedIn or Twitter. (I’m at @heybluez if you want to follow me…hint…hint.) ;-) Also be sure to get their information, especially if they are interesting!

  8. Follow up. Be mindful of them and be sure to reach out from time to time just to see how they are doing.

  9. Be patient. Remember, these guidelines are part of a long-tail strategy. Networking takes takes time, but all great things do. So make it a game. Have fun. At the end of the day, you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Happy networking.

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