In the supermarket queue, in business & in life generally…
“What is a nuclear networker?”
In truth it’s not a ‘real’ industry term. It’s something I made up to emphasise the power of said networker. High energy, impacting and extreme. One of ‘nuclear strength’. Over the years working for top magazine brands I’ve met some extremely successful people – both while working and whilst socialising. A good networker can build bridges but a nuclear networker can walk across said bridge, take a bottle of wine, visit the home and become firm friends with the person.
So you see I’m not just talking about how to network. I’m discussing how to be the best in the game. How to be the best networker you can possibly be. One that isn’t afraid to turn up at an event alone, one that doesn’t rely on alcohol for confidence and companionship but one that leaves with an abundance of business cards (and none of yours left). One that goes out and hustles. Not just at invitation-only events either but in the coffee shop queue, on the tube, even when hanging out with friends. Being a ‘connector’ comes with a unique set of skills. Ones that with a bit of practice, anyone can develop to become a nuclear networker.
Benefits of Being a ‘Nuclear Networker’
Not just in business but also in life, there are huge benefits of being a nuclear networker. . Sure you can enhance your reputation, your pay and your opportunities from a work point of view but think about building your little black book in other ways.
When building your social circle, be varied, know people in different worlds, different places. Also know that networking can happen in shops, on the street, even across the globe using Skype too. To a nuclear networker, even the smallest of things are considered networking.
Networking for them is a lifestyle, a way of living. They connect people. Thanking the barista for your coffee and wishing them well until you see them tomorrow. Asking the dry cleaner if you can introduce them to some friends who also need their service. Even at a child’s birthday party, you never know who you’re going to meet or what common interests you may have.
Before launching in to a ‘be more…’ or ‘to do’ list, it’s important to understand that a good networker will naturally possess a set of characteristics that helps them become effortlessly great at the task in hand. Personally, I’ve made contacts in restaurants before, got a job after randomly chatting to someone in a bar. If you don’t have said skills, don’t worry they can definitely be worked on and developed. I’m not for one second suggesting I am the best example of a nuclear networker but I know the basics and I know how to put them into practice. I’ve so many people that I look up to that I’ve met over my years in media to know what they’re doing right and what the awful ones are doing wrong. Don’t think that networking is the reserve of senior people, I’ve seen some grads who are fantastic networkers.
The thing is, networkers tend to be natural born leaders. There, I said it. They’re confident, passionate and innovative. Their public speaking is usually memorable and interesting. They’re the type of people you can have a conversation with about almost absolutely anything. They’re able to identify the best skills in people within 5 minutes and can make recommendations or give advice on upcoming roles they’d be suited to, friends that they can be introduced to and interests that they might like.
For practice, think about three topics that you’d like to cover in a conversation with someone. What are they doing this weekend? Maybe sailing – who do you know who sails? Which brands do you know of that make great outdoor clothes? Talk about it. Secondly, what do they do for a job? Sales? Great, you know someone who works in sales, might they be looking for a new role? Make the third investigation interesting and surprise yourself. Share something that you’d never normally share, something people may not know about you. You’re thinking of reading a new ‘Times Best Seller’ book? Perfect, share the info. Are they reading it too? Are they engaging in your conversation? The more you practice this in the real world the easier it becomes. You won’t even have to think about the structure of the conversation.
Steps To Becoming A Nuclear Networker
#1 Enjoy People
I’ve been to too many events and too many parties where people are nervous. Why? Because they’re so intent on getting something out of it they end up worrying that they’re not doing it right. They have their own agenda and become worried that if they’re unsuccessful people will call them out for failing. Will think they’re not good at networking. There may also be that fear of missing out.
They’re putting unnecessary pressure on themselves to meet new people, grow their business or raise their profile. It’s not good to go to events with the sole purpose of gaining something.
Instead go with the mindset that you’d like to enjoy people. Be a good listener, talk to people as though you really, really want to get to know them. Who knows they may become new life long friends! It’s about being genuine, natural and chatty. Not forceful, quick fire and intense. Have an open mind and no expectations.
Keep the conversation flowing. If someone’s talking about a subject, ask open ended questions about it. Be interested in what they’re saying without coming across as hammy. The best way to be relaxed is to be clued up on current affairs. Read the news, see what’s going on in the industry. Don’t be that person who can only talk about Love Island. Good networkers are fully rounded people who people remember for that interesting fact they taught them, that strong opinion they had…
Don’t be rude or think you’re above people. I always make an effort to apologise to someone for bumping in to them (rare in London), I’ll engage in conversation at the bar when ordering drinks – with men and women. Overall when I’m out I feel quite chilled so don’t mind asking that security guard in Topshop how his day was or seeing how the new waitress is getting on on her first day at the restaurant.
#3 Don’t Live Online
When I worked for magazines, it was so obvious at events and parties which people only communicated via email versus those who actually picked up the phone. They’d be in the corner, they wouldn’t recognise anyone’s voice, they’d be alone. In offices, emails are used for quick communication, detailing terms and conditions etc. They should not be used for delving into the family story of an individual, catching up on weekend plans and what they thought of last night’s TV. Speak to real people, lunch with them, build a repertoire. Meet them face to face and give them a ring. Then when it comes to events you’re already ahead of the game having established relationships on a more human level.
#4 Can I Help You?
Being a nuclear networker is not about taking. It’s about giving too. At the end of any conversation ask yourself, have you offered your help or services? Is there someone this person may find interesting that’s worth you introducing them to? Can you see a reason to meet them again afterwards? One of the things I learned very early on in business is that you should always offer your help, services and information. Information sharers make the best connectors and in busy industries, you want to be called upon. You want to be seen as offering someone no one else can. You want to be classed as useful.
During my media career this was always a skill that was needed. Even more so now I’m self employed. Even if it’s not immediate, eventually you will get that call “Hey Lauren, remember that idea you told me about for a digital campaign? Our Directors loved it and we’d like to go ahead…”. Or how about “Hi Lauren, you may remember me we were introduced over lunch the other day, well we’d like to get your thoughts on our digital branding and marketing…”. Even “Hi Lauren, you talked me through the global reach of (*whichever mag I worked on at the time) the other day when you popped in to get your eyebrows done and well, we’d like to know more about it for our brand…”.
#5 After care
The difference between a nuclear networker and someone who just turns up and shows face is also in the follow up. You’ve made a connection, you have their contact details, now what? Do you leave it until you need something from them? Erm no. Big error. Don’t be seen as someone who only wants to know when they need something.
Instead follow up. The next day. Remind them you’re here to help, say how nice it was to meet them. Leave the note with an open ended question so they have to respond. Don’t dismiss someone or think you’re better than someone. The nature (and beauty) of humanity is that we all came in to the world the same way and we’ll all leave the same way. Whatever social class defines, remember that we’re all equal. Don’t be afraid to approach someone, don’t be rude and always keep in touch.
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