This article was first published on @Slant, a crowdsourced journalism website with a ton of potential. Unfortunately, the publication recently shut its doors. In light of this, I have decided to expand upon the articles and publish here on #Orbit. Enjoy!
Most people despise the word networking. They imagine people trying to push their products and services onto others, awkward small talk and loud, crowded environments. While this is sometimes true, it can also be a powerful, positive experience that creates new relationships, friendships, partners and even clients.
Darrah Brustein recently published a post on Entrepreneur about this very topic. She writes that you need to be fostering new relationships while you don?t need anything in return ? only something to offer ? so that you don?t appear to be self-serving when the time comes to ask.
It all comes down to one thing:
If your intent is to help others, you will attract people. If your intent is to get something from someone, you will detract. Most people attend networking events with the mindset of “what’s in it for me?”
I recently discovered a new app that is working to solve this networking problem. Shapr allows you to put in who you are looking for, topics you are interested in, and your purpose for meeting like-minded professionals. With this data, it mines the profiles and delivers them to you ? la Tinder. Choose to meet or pass. If you are a match, you can then message each other and meet up at a coffee shop or bar or wherever to discuss your ideas, get help solving a problem, etc.
Defining my Objectives with the App
Before I began using the app heavily, I wanted to set some objectives for myself in order to get the most use out of my time meeting with new people. These are the objectives I’ve used to connect with others and have had good success doing so.
– Go in with an open mindset – you never know how someone may be able to help you at some point down the line, or how you may be able to help them. Having an open mindset definitely helps when meeting others.
– Value their story – just as you want others to listen and value your story, you should do the same of others. Listening to their career paths and their experiences can give you ideas for how to tackle your own challenges. Listen intently to really understand their journey. You’ll have a much deeper connection and it makes it more enjoyable for everyone!
– Reach out to those with more experience – it can be unnerving to reach out to someone who has much more experience than you, however, it can also make the connection and conversation so much more powerful.
– Do not make it about you; Focus on them – You have heard this before: it is not about you, but about how you can help them. Having this clear intent will catapult you much higher and will allow you to really focus on providing value to your new connection.
My First Week Using Shapr
I joined the app not really knowing what would happen. I was open to meeting people and my intent was to share information, make friends and grow my network. If I could help someone with something from my background, that would be considered a success.
I started off by choosing people with common interests. Things such as entrepreneurship, startups, process improvement, strategic planning and mentoring. Right off the bat, I made a few connections. Over the course of a couple days, I messaged them back and forth through the app, learning about them and their interests. Then, the magic started to happen. I began to set up coffee meetings with these people. The simple act of sitting down with someone over coffee seems so easy. Yet in our busy day and age, it can be nearly impossible to make happen. Shapr makes it happen.
As a huge fan and ambassador of LinkedIn, Shapr is a way to find connections through a simple mobile interface, then connect with them on LinkedIn. I’ve been able to grow my LinkedIn network by utilizing Shapr to meet quality, like-minded, creative professionals like myself.
I had a coffee meeting with an HR recruiter on a Wednesday morning who was passionate about her job but was wanting to move into strategic planning to improve the processes within her company. I was able to help her get started learning process improvement methodologies, such as six sigma.
The next day I met up with an ambitious account executive, just out of university. We hit it off fast, finding travel, sports, and business as common threads, along with our dedication to hard work. While at this point, our business needs don’t line up, he is a great connection and someone that could definitely become a friend.
The next week I had meetings lined up with a founder of a new social network, a market analyst in the pharmaceuticals industry, and an aspiring fashion designer. All from Shapr.
Over the past 6 weeks of using Shapr, I’ve met and have been connected to nearly 30 professionals. All from a simple app and a clear intent of meeting people to learn what they do and how I can help them better their craft.
In fact, I had so much success with the Shapr app, I reached out to @weareshapr to thank them for an amazing product. Here was our initial conversation via Twitter:
— Benjamin Warsinske (@BWarsinske) March 5, 2016
Then, they started sharing the story. And it started to spread.
— Shapr (@weareshapr) March 7, 2016
So I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, find like-minded professionals and go have coffee with them for 20 minutes. Chances are you are getting coffee at some point throughout the day, why not grow your network at the same time? Make your intent to meet genuine people who you can help and who knows what may be in store for you in return.