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👽 I'm an alien, according to my classmate

I remember my classmate staring at me like I was an alien after I said “thank you” to him.

Why?

Well, I spent all my time reading books rather than talking to people…

And I would never look people in the eye when talking to them…

You get the idea.

I used to be so shy that I never spoke a word in class.

Yet you’d never know that today if you looked at my LinkedIn profile. Some people say I’m a pro at networking.

Jennifer Chou's LinkedIn.

Yes, my LinkedIn headline is right - I really advised 1k+ people. I did the math

How did I get here?

Keep scrolling to read my story (and how I reacted to being treated like an alien) 👇

Networking isn't what you think it is

Imagine someone handing you a business card at a networking event.

That’s probably what you’re expecting, right?

Well, I disagree with that definition of networking.

To me, networking isn’t “formal” or “professional” at all.

Networking is about:

  • Having fun
  • Making new friends
  • Learning people’s hopes and dreams

Okay, the psychology student in me jumped out there at that last point 😅

But you get the idea.

Networking can sound really intimidating.

Once you think of it as building long-term relationships with super interesting people (maybe even the next Steve Jobs? 🤯), you start looking forward to it.

But even after I thought of networking this way, I wasn’t quite ready to network in a room of 30+ people…

Sooo I kinda cheated 😅

With this new definition of “networking” in mind, I started out small.

In fact, I didn’t even speak to a single person…

Okay, before you think I’m a scammer, I promise this is all part of the process.

Here’s what happened.

I attended a panel event - it was one of those startup presentations where people talked about all the cool things they were making.

It was all online through Zoom, so I kept my camera and microphone off.

I felt like I had the invisibility cloak 😂

During the event, I felt so inspired by everything the startup founders were sharing.

I kept giving them encouragement and privately messaged some of them in the Zoom chat to follow their startups.

Then, after the event, one of the founders and I kept in touch over social media.

We’ve been supporting each other ever since.

P.S. if you’re wondering where you can find these events…we actually host a lot of fun workshops! Maybe you’ve gotten some emails about them, and even met me as I was the speaker for some of them!

5 tips for networking

Okay, so you’ve read about my story long enough. Now, as a “thank you” for your attention, I’d like to share 5 tips that made networking effective for me.

1. People are selfish (sorry)

This tip sounds kinda negative, but I promise, it helps.

When you realize that people are more preoccupied with their own lives than yours, it feels liberating.

Sometimes, I’ll say something I think is cringey.

I used to spend hours agonizing over it, regretting my every action.

But then I asked myself:

“Do I remember a time when others have said something cringey?”

Nope.

I tried for like 5 minutes.

Couldn’t think of a single instance.

I asked myself another question:

“Will I even remember what I said 5 years from now?”

I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast today.

That’s how insignificant that “cringey moment” was for me.

Once you shift your mindset, you get less scared of saying the wrong thing.

Then, you can start seeking out opportunities to create your own luck.

2. 1 person is less scary than 30

I thrive when talking to just 1 person.

I love hearing their hopes, dreams, and goals.

That’s why I started out by just reaching out to 1 person at a time.

In fact, you can even reach out to me!

I’m just 1 person.

Can I challenge you to reach out to at least 1 new person on LinkedIn that you admire?

Make sure to leave a personalized connection note saying why you admire that person!

Customize your LinkedIn connection invitation with a note.

3. Channel your curiosity

As I mentioned, it’s a lot easier to network when you’re learning about the other person.

I see everyone I connect with as a potential friend.

I care about all my friends, and love to ask about their dreams and goals.

You can do this too!

Make a list of questions ahead of time to start the conversation with someone.

Questions like:

  • What are you passionate about right now?
  • What’s something you think everyone should know about?
  • Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
  • What are you proud of recently?

It may seem awkward to go up to someone to ask those questions, but some of the most enriching conversations I’ve had were based on those.

Take the leap.

You won’t regret it.

(And if you do, it’s just 1 person anyway!)

4. Shine bright like a forehead?

Weird headline title, I’ll admit.

But hopefully it helps you remember this tip.

If you struggle to make eye contact with someone like me, look between their eyes - on their forehead - instead.

This will make you seem more focused on the conversation, and that person will like you better.

(Yes, there was a research study on this.)

It’s even easier if you’re networking online.

Just look at your screen.

You can even tape a funny meme near your webcam and look at that.

May I suggest this meme:

Meme. After talking to 1 person, the guy says "you know, I'm something of a networker myself."

5. Your smile brings you miles ahead

I understand that networking can be intimidating.

Maybe the other person you’re talking to is nervous too!

That’s why you must remember to smile.

Smiling can help the other person relax - they’ll smile back at you, which can help you relax too!

I see a lot of networking newbies forget that networking is just connecting with another person.

It’s not like you’re in trouble at the principal’s office.

Treat it like you’re making a new friend, and you’ll be successful.

A summary to jog your memory

So if your memory is terrible like mine (yup, still struggling to remember what I ate for breakfast), here’s a summary of my tips:

  1. People are selfish - let that liberate you from your “cringey” moments
  2. 1 person is less scary than 30
  3. Channel your curiosity - prepare good questions
  4. Look between someone’s eyes to fake eye contact
  5. Remember to smile!

Being an alien isn’t so bad

Remember that story about my classmate?

He must’ve stared at me for 1 full minute after I spoke.

I guess he was just really shocked that I could speak.

Although I was just a kid back then and didn’t do anything…

Looking back now, this memory shifted my whole mindset.

I look at things differently now, and ask myself 2 questions before and after networking:

  • What expectations do other people have for me, and what impact does that have?
  • What unique perspective can my alien self bring, so I can gain more insight?

This helps me be more mindful and intentional with what I want to achieve by connecting with others.

What's your networking level?

  • Still a newbie
  • I’ve talked with a few people
  • I’ve networked a bit
  • I’m a pro networker

Enjoyed this week’s newsletter?

Forward to a friend!

This is my face when I see you share my story to help more people:

Date originally published:
Oct 4, 2022
Date last updated:
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