How can someone new to Silicon Valley network effectively?

As Keith Rabois says, the #1 goal should be to develop useful talents and then the rest will take care of itself, people will want to network with you.

Until then, It can still be useful to start building your network while you are simultaneously developing your skills. Also, the development of certain skills can be aided by meeting the right people. Here are some tips:

  • Hook into the open and inviting parts of the SV entrepreneurial scene: locations like Hacker’s Dojo that are open to everyone and have a lot of people working on startups and there is some sort of entrepreneurial event nearly every evening. Check for a long list of tech events in the bay. At events like these, you will meet the occasional “big name” but in general open events are great for meeting a wide cross section of people who are in the startup scene
  • Participate digitally: Write on Quora, comment on HackerNews, Blog, Have conversations on twitter. If you have interesting and insightful things to say and you keep it up over a sustained period of time, people will notice.
  • Do your homework: If you are meeting up with someone who you really respect and has accomplished cool things, research them and their background before the meeting. People tend to appreciate it and this allows you to custom tailor a conversation to the person you are talking to.
  • Write quality cold emails: You can now contact virtually anybody in the world. Reach out to a lot of people that you would like to meet over email. Make the emails concise, polite and interesting and you may be surprised by how many responses you get.
  • Start young: Silicon Valley has a love affair with youth. Many successful SV entrepreneurial types like to mentor young people. Be appreciative, low maintenance and try to help your mentor when you can and your mentors will be able to help you significantly.
  • Be on a mission: Networking just for networking’s sake is not as effective as when you have a mission. I use the term mission broadly to mean something that you are focused on. If you have an interesting mission you can rally people around what are you doing and can reach out to people with a specific context which helps in the networking process. Startup related missions include starting companies, organizing events, writing for tech related press outlets, starting a non-profit, looking for specific knowledge for your job…etc.
  • Be nice and helpful: People like to deal with people that they like (being nice goes a long way in this category). Also, most people have an in built sense of reciprocity, so try to help as many people as you can. In the long run it will pay off, especially in the SV culture.
  • Accomplish noteworthy things and develop expertise: Accomplishing noteworthy things raises your “value” when it comes to networking and having expertise on a topic gives you knowledge that you can share that can be valuable to other people. When you accomplish something or develop an expertise, share it with the world. This can amplify the benefits and help you start a conversation with interesting people.
  • Have a good elevator pitch: Whether you have a startup or not, introducing yourself in an interesting way can help catch the attention of people you are meeting and trying to meet. For more, check out http://www.bothsidesofthetable.c…
  • Who else do you think I should meet?: When you meet someone that you really enjoyed meeting, at the end of the meeting, ask for introductions to other people that they think would be a good person for you to meet. (Hat tip Jordan Greenhall, a founder and former CEO of DivX)
  • Participate in popular startup folk activities: Climb rocks, drink tea, play golf with frisbees, play settlers of catan, go to Burning man… there are a variety of activities that are both fun and quite popular with startup people. Taking part in these activities is both fun and a good way to meet people in a non stodgy way.
  • Develop a good relationship with your boss: If you work at a startup, there is a good chance that your boss (and/or your boss’s boss) already has a great network and if you do good work and develop a good relationship with your boss, they can make a lot of useful introductions.
*This post was originally published on Quora.

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