How to Not Suck at Meeting People

Last Thursday, the Startup Institute was lucky enough to sit down with Bob Mason and Jay Batson for the kickoff to our “Important People, Honest Conversations” series. The sold out event drew a crowd of those looking to land jobs or just starting their careers at startups. Bob and Jay dropped some major knowledge on how to effectively network, create opportunities, ask for help, and get the job you really want. So what words of wisdom did these Important People have for our crowd?

  1. Be Authentic - Networking is awkward, uncomfortable, and a bit like going to the dentist- you have to do it or there might be problems. Jay says that when meeting someone at a networking event he just wants to know who they are, “Be casual, be authentic. What are you interested in? How do you think?” It’s not about getting a job offer on the spot, focus on opening a meaningful line of communication.
  1. Be Honest - Startups are businesses that don’t have time for any bullshit. Bob advises you to start by “being honest with yourself about what you’re good at.” When looking for a job, be straightforward with yourself and the company about expectations. Do you have the skills and experience to achieve what you need to at a potential job? If the answer is no or you’re not sure, then it’s time for a candid conversation. If it’s not a fit from the beginning it’ll only go downhill from there.
  1. Be Efficient - Keep emails short. Really short. Better yet, Jay says that it’s easiest for him to engage with someone he’s just met if they ask for 5-10 minutes on the phone with him. Don’t be a bother, but keep those that you’ve connected with in the loop by sending a quick update each month. Something as simple as “Thank you for your advice a few weeks ago. I am still looking for the right opportunity, so please keep me in mind if you hear of anything. Is there anyone else you recommend I reach out to in the meantime?” You can keep this relationship relevant in 3 sentences. Easy, right?
  1. Be Happy - If you know what matters, really matters, to you when joining a company then everyone will be happy. Is it a great team? Is it the chance to learn a lot? Is it solving a specific problem? Bob says that when looking into a company, ask yourself this - “Am I going to have fun and learn things and enjoy my time?” If you answered no to any of these, then walk away. Joining a startup is a lifestyle, not just a job, so you better like what you’re doing.

One of our favorite quotes of the evening came from Mr. Mason; “Most entrepreneurs have a heavy dose of naive optimism with strong moments of extreme panic.” It’s completely normal to be unsure of yourself at times. Bob and Jay both agree that if you have the right professional support system in place then these moments of doubt become much more easily managed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help - after all, every CEO had to start somewhere.