Networking Tactics That Stood the Test of Time

Feb 22, 2024

Influential figures throughout history have followed strikingly similar patterns that still apply today: bringing people together in small groups that foster trust and more meaningful exchanges, stepping out of their comfort zones and diversifying their networks, meticulously documenting their interactions or reaching out to their contacts meaningfully.‍

Join us as we explore some tried, true and timeless networking tactics.

Networking in Intimate Settings

One of the recurring themes is bringing a small group of people together in a more intimate gathering to foster a level of deep exchange. Benjamin Franklin exemplified this with the so called Junto he founded in Philadelphia in 1927 —  a small group get-together of like-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds. While the primary focus of the Junto was mutual improvement, the club naturally evolved into a networking platform. Tradesmen, artisans and intellectuals met regularly to discuss current issues, share knowledge and collaborate on civic and business matters. Similarly, Steve Jobs prioritized networking in small-scale settings: he often hosted intimate gatherings at his home where everyone could connect easily and benefit from each others knowledge. Compared to larger get-togethers and events, attending intimate gatherings will help you foster deeper connections, enhance trust with other attendees and provide better opportunities for collaboration.

Diversify Your Network

Jobs was also known for seeking inspiration outside the conventional tech world, interacting with people in fields such as design, music, and spirituality, which had a major influence on Apple's products. Similarly, Eleanor Roosevelt - as First Lady, diplomat, and activist - was known to have interacted with a wide range of people, from world leaders to the marginalized in society. Her extensive network has shaped her views on human rights and social justice. Surrounding yourself with people outside your usual social or professional bubble is invaluable for networking as it broadens perspectives, introduces diverse ideas, and extends your reach. Network science research shows that having a diverse network is directly correlated to having professional success.

Take Notes to Promote Meaningful Interactions

Another recurring pattern is taking notes on meetings and interactions. David Rockefeller, an American banker and philanthropist, met with nearly every world leader for 50 years and recorded his notes on Rolodex cards (used in the pre-digital, pre-CRM days). This helped him remember important details when he met the same person later. He attributed his success in business and life to this deliberate and personal approach to networking. And he wasn't alone: When Bill Clinton met classmates at university, he would take out a black notebook and write down their names and why they were at Oxford for future reference. Later, as president, one of his final tasks of the day was to make a note card for each person he met that day. By demonstrating your commitment to remembering and acknowledging important aspects of people's lives, you build stronger relationships and establish your reputation as a trustworthy person.

Show People That You Care about Them

Based on his notes, Clinton then took the time to reach out to his network and nurture his relationships. Believing in the power of handwritten cards, he sent thank-you, birthday, and follow-up notes, as well as the occasional crossword puzzle piece that reminded him of a particular person, with a note scribbled in the margin. Similarly, Oprah Winfrey, known for her extensive personal and professional network, has sent personal letters to people who have had a significant impact on her life or whom she admires. Actively looking for ways to reach out to people in your network demonstrates a genuine interest in their success and well-being. It shows that you care.

When you explore the historical lessons of building and maintaining meaningful relationships, you realize that they're as applicable today as they were all those years ago. From intimate gatherings and diversifying your network to thoughtful note-taking and outreach, these tactics have truly stood the test of time.

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