Everybody knows someone. If you want to meet someone in particular, ask the people you know if they know anyone who knows the person--and then ask them to make an introduction.
At the end of the day, a warm lead is always better than a cold lead. If you can get in the door with some sort of referral, that will always be better than a cold email or phone call.
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Friends do business with friends.
By no means is this a suggestion to go be one of those social climbers who pretends to make friends in the name of getting to the top. It's more about having genuine connections, with openly stated goals, aspirations and struggles.
One of the best networking hacks in the world.
People with knowledge tend to hold back what they know under the presumption that you aren't really interested in what they have to say. But if you listen and show not only your interest but your appreciation, they will share. They will share everything they know, and then some. So not only is this a learning opportunity for you, but it becomes one of the fastest ways to make friends and build an incredible network.
Whenever you help someone reach a goal, make a connection, overcome an obstacle, etc., you are doing so many important things for that relationship: You are establishing a friendship, you are showing your willingness to invest in him or her first, you are showing your value, and you are building trust.
If you are not able to do this, then all your other networking efforts amount to very little. For every lead in, two leads fall out.
While a referral or an introduction can be great, at the end of the day it's all about you grabbing life by the horns and saying, "This is who I am and this is what I do."
At the gym. At the pool. At the club. At whatever event.
You pop up now and again to your connections and acquaintances (old and new), without any obligation to follow up or see each other in person.
Catching up with someone I know over lunch can actually be much more appealing than making small talk with strangers over finger food. But often, we undervalue (and underprioritize) these appointments, even though meeting with people in our current professional circle is networking.
make sure you know who is who, where they work, and how to get in touch.