Sign up. Show up. Be there.

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Written By Scott Kubie

Founder and Director of Content Career Accelerator. Indie rock fan. East Coast midwesterner.

An uncomplicated recipe for networking.

Networking used to stress me out because it was this big abstract and scary idea that I hadn’t really investigated. (And also because I had unmanaged anxiety and depression, but we’ll save that for another time!) 

Because I hadn’t really thought about it or examined what networking was, it felt like something that other people were naturally good at, and I wasn’t, and that stressed me out even more, on and on in a big stupid self-defeating spiral. 

When something feels big and scary and overwhelming, my advice is to atomize it; to try to break it down into smaller and smaller things. What is it really? What is it made of? Thankfully, I was eventually able to break networking down for myself. I learned that it isn’t high effort, doesn’t look the same for everyone, doesn’t have to be scary, and doesn’t have to be hard. Ultimately, I learned that:

Networking = showing up + being there.

Sign up for the thing. Go to the thing. And finally, and most importantly, be at the thing. That’s networking.

But Scott, what if I’m a socially-anxious and introverted Virgo with nine little rescue dogs in little wheelchairs with special needs who are also introverted and have little doggie panic attacks when I leave the house? No, you’re right, that sounds hard. I hear you. My advice then is to sign up for online things I guess?? And then actually go to them. Join camera off in a helmet and respirator if that’s what you need to protect yourself from the horror of doing a thing, and then BE THERE. Type a hello in the chat. Add a react or two to messages going by. Unmute in the last 10 seconds of the call and force a “HISSPthanksthatwasgreatHISSSP” out of your Dune suit.

You don’t even have to go to things to network. You just have to engage with the world. It’s never been easier. Some verbs that hit the mark: Attend. Engage. Reply. Share. React. Boost. Thank. Help. Offer. Alert. Connect.

Networking is not: 

  • Throwing 1,000 job applications into the auto-apply void without interacting with a single human being connected to those jobs.
  • Scrolling for hours and hours, every night, reading and watching but saying nothing.
  • Haunting online meetups like a ghost.

Sign up. Show up. Be there

Where’s there? Just about anywhere!

A networking social hour? Obviously, yes! Sign up. Go. Tell one person your name. (Then run out of the room screaming, if you must; that will still make an impression!) Tell someone after, on Meetup or Slack, “thanks for organizing that”.

A newsletter you enjoyed reading? Hit reply, type “this was great, thanks”, hit send. Wow, so hard!

A video you learned something from? Click that little itty bitty ‘Like’ button. Will anyone see it? I don’t know, but it seems like the bare minimum, yeah?

An opportunity you see on LinkedIn that’s cool but not for you? Repost it. Hey, you’re helping! You’re connecting! That’s networking!

I want you to sign up, show up, and be there because those actions matter to People Who Do Things. And more often than not, People Who Do Things end up becoming, or are connected to, People With Opportunities.

Me, I’ve Done a lot of Things. I’ve sent a lot of newsletters and published a lot of articles and given a lot of talks and led a lot of classes and made a lot of tools and hosted a lot of parties, and just generally, in a lot of ways, tried to make things happen for other people, because that’s just kind of my jam? I like to do stuff that helps other people do stuff. It can be the most rewarding thing in the world. I love it.

In all this Doing of Things, I’ve observed that many people don’t even so much as acknowledge that you did the thing. Many people, too many, will show up but aren’t really there; laptops open typing away the whole time, trash left under their seat when they leave, no “hey thanks, have a good night!” out the door, no follow-up after.

Fine, fine. If I needed a handy from everyone at the party I’d throw different kinds of parties. But I do notice the people who are truly there. I think other People Who Do Things do, too. We notice the people who sign in on the sign-in sheet while others walk past it, who share the ask even though their network is small, who push a few chairs in at the end of the night. It often takes hardly any effort to be there with someone who has already opened their door to you, and then connect with them. Which, in my cosmology, is networking.

Because who do you think of when you have an opportunity and are trying to think of somebody? The people who didn’t show up and weren’t there? Or the people who did, and were?

At online events, I see the people with their cameras on, or using a fun little avatar. I see the people who say “Hello, I’m so-and-so from wherever” in the chat. I see the people who click the little clapping react on Zoom. I definitely see the people who acknowledge the reference, riff on the joke, or drop the link to the thing I just mentioned to help everyone else out. (🙌🏻)

You’ve gotta put something out there, something, however small, if you expect to ever get anything back.

I’m being a tad obnoxious about this because I want to shake you loose if you’ve gotten stuck. Networking is not hard. You’re making it hard. At worst, networking is boring and mildly uncomfortable. The horror!

Networking will look however it needs to look for you. I don’t know what that will be. I do know that it won’t look like sitting quietly in your room doing fuck-all, talking to no one, and going to nothing. You don’t have to have business cards, you don’t have to do cold calls, you don’t have to write the perfect email that will help you secure the perfect number of informational interviews with the perfect people. You don’t even have to be on LinkedIn if you don’t want to. You do have to find some stuff that’s interesting to you, sign up for it, show up for it, and then actually be present while you’re at it or doing it or reading it or watching it or sharing about it or whatever. 

That’s it, that’s networking, the whole thing. Sign up, show up, be there. You’ve got this. 🎤⬇️

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