We’re big fans of a recent post by Mark Suster, a venture capitalist with Upfront Ventures, and not just because of its impressively relevant Biggie Smalls reference. It’s titled, “Understanding the Power of Your Human Networks,” and in it Suster lays out a smart set of actionable networking guidelines we strongly suggest you consider:
1. Set coffee meetings early, often and with the right people. Don’t spend all your time chasing down CEOs, who generally are too busy to pin down. Instead, meet with peers at other companies and people who have the types of job you’d like to have one day. Schedule one meeting a week, every week, for a year. By December, you’ll have the beginnings of a nice bank of relationship capital.
2. Look for “mavens.” Call them “bridges” or “hubs,” if you want, but these are the people who know people, and they are the most valuable conduits to new ideas and connections. They’re not to be confused with decision-makers, but may be more important over the long run.
3. Give your time, insights and energy. Helping others in your network racks up respect and credit, strengthens existing ties and establishes new ones. And if you think you might be giving more than you’re getting…good. Now give some more.
4. Be sparing and specific with your asks. My take on this: One networking request to every five networking favors is a healthy ratio. And when you communicate a need, remember that less is more. A networking ask is not a therapy session.
5. Always ask permission. Not everyone is dying to be introduced to everyone else. There is a pick-your-spots aspect to matchmaking.
Suster is clearly one of us, preaching what we say again and again to people who use our platform. Building a network takes more–and less–than just stuffing as many names into your contact list as you can. (There’s a reason we curate our data set so ruthlessly.) You need to be creative and efficient. Sustaining your network, as important as that is, need not be a time and energy suck.