Question: What tips do you have for networking with people in an industry that you're unfamiliar with?
Question by: Roger
Head In With Hot Topics
"Get up to speed on some of the hot topics within an industry and use them to initiate compelling conversations with people in the industry. You can use this as a foot in the door to ask further questions about key areas and quickly suss out the key players and where they stand on the pertinent issues within that industry."
Scout Out the Blogs
"By starting with blogs that cover the industry, you can get a feel for people who are not only accessible (try the contact forms on all those blogs!), but are paying close attention to the industry. That means that they can give you a guided tour if you approach them correctly, which makes networking a whole lot easier."
The Best Date You'll Ever Have
"Find the most successful person in that industry and ask if you can take them out to lunch. Tell them your story and how you admire them and they can become your best asset. Ask questions, sit back and be sure to listen, because they will probably teach you more in that hour than you will ever learn again about that industry."
"When you boil business down to its most basic element, all you have is people. If you take an interest in others and display openness and sincerity, people will like, trust and remember you. Do not try to impress others with your knowledge. Instead, ask lots of questions and listen attentively. Be open about your goals and don't be afraid to ask for help. Follow up with every connection you make."
Transparency Is Key
"Be honest with people about why you want to learn about their industry. Doing so will keep people from being suspicious of you and your motives. This method will also increase the likelihood of receiving feedback that's relevant to your intentions."
The Interview That Counts
"Most people enjoy talking about what they do. Capitalize on this by reaching out to a few key contacts in the unfamiliar industry and invite them to meet for coffee. Explain to the contact that you admire their position/expertise within the industry and are interested in learning more. During the meeting, ask for additional people to connect with. You'll be networked in no time!"
"Conferences are a great way to meet others in your industry. You can also ask conference leaders to host a lunch session or discussion table. Bring lots of business cards and a smile and you will be able to network with a ton of people in your industry."
All You Have to Give
"When you move into a new industry, you bring your prior experience and contacts. At the end of each conversation, ask people what they most need right now. Then think through who you know who could help them or what resources you could recommend. Finally follow up with that information. People will be blown away at your authenticity and follow-through and will usually be happy to return the favor."
Two Ears and One Mouth
"Talk less and listen more. Don't sell your product or service, but rather sell your new contacts on your interest in them. Collect business cards and remember interpersonal details by taking notes on the back of the card. Get to know the people personally who make up the industry and in turn you will get to know the industry itself."
Bring a Wingman
"For any networking event it can be helpful to have a networking "wingman." Together, you can naturally draw individuals into your conversation. This is particularly true if your networking wingman is knowledgeable about the industry you are unfamiliar with. If nothing else, the event will provide you with an opportunity to get to know your networking wingman better!"
Ask the Right Questions
"Rather than worrying about coming in with specific questions, be up-front and tell the person you are just starting to learn about the industry. Ask them broad questions that draw upon their expertise. For example, 'What are the three most important things a newcomer to this field should know?' or 'Within this field, what areas would you recommend I start building expertise in?'"
Dive in Face-to-Face
"Nothing beats networking in person. Find the industry events and attend with a goal of learning and meeting everyone. Be open about what you're trying to do and that you're new to this particular industry, and you'll find that the people you talk to will open even more doors and ideas for you to pursue."
Twitter at Its Finest
"Use FollowerWonk to search Twitter bios for industry related terms and start following these people immediately. Read their tweets and links carefully and learn from their expertise. Use @Mentions to start conversations with them and ask any questions that you have."
Become the Student
"Be honest and admit you're looking to learn. Industry insiders love nothing more than to play the expert and share their knowledge. Note: do your research first so that you can add to the conversation. Having something to add will display your interest and desire to learn."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.