Dhruva is one of those guys. You know, someone who's only one degree of separation away from everyone in the known universe. You could say you're going to a conference on the most obscure aspect of electrical engineering and he'd say, "Oh, you should meet so-and-so."
He is also, in his 20s, a successful entrepreneur. He founded hardware startup Latch, was head of product for a venture-backed startup acquired last fall, and recently started a new company that creates scalable products in hardware and software. And much of his success is due to his incredible ability to network.
Malcolm Gladwell has a name for these types of people: Connectors. The human equivalents of computer network hubs, they're "a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [... for] making friends and acquaintances."
Not just any friends, though -- Connectors have very diverse social circles, so they know people across a number of different disciplines and in different areas. Tell Dhruva you're interested in medicine and moving to Singapore and he'll give you a list of 5 people with whom you should have coffee (or bubble tea).
While Gladwell intimates that some Connector qualities are innate, many can be developed. Here are a few practices to up your game:
1 ) Skip cold networking events. Join groups instead
Part of the reason cold networking events are so awful is that they're one-off events. By the time you've built rapport with someone, it's time to leave.
But when you join a group that meets regularly - even if the focus isn't straight networking - you build relationships. You follow up with someone on that thing you discussed last week. You see what happened with the deal they were talking about -- did it go through or fall though? You think critically about, "What problem or challenge exists within your business, and how do we solve that?" You build trust.
Stop going to networking happy hours and instead join a group. This alone will transform your networking. (Hint: ask a few of the people you respect in your industry about whether they belong to any groups. Join those.)
2) Use the network you already have
One of Dhruva's mentors is an active angel investor who never responds to cold emails or LinkedIn requests -- he sees his network as the best filter for his deal flow. If you can't figure out how to get connected to someone he knows, he says you're likely not going to sell or market your product particularly well.
When looking for a connection, spend time seeking a warm intro. The last example of this for me? I posted on Facebook: "Hey, I'm looking for a contact at BuzzFeed. Anybody?" -- and tagged a bunch of people across disciplines. You never know who knows whom (and a friend did tag someone else who helped me out).
3) Be really, really helpful
I can attest to the fact that Dhruva walks this talk. When we first met, I told him I was job hunting. The next day, he invited me to meet him at his new office for lunch.
We brainstormed for a full hour about jobs for me. He had at least three smart suggestions, including people who were actively hiring. Weeks later, I got my job at Uber. While it wasn't directly related to his intros, his brainstorming and faith in me were encouraging at a time when I needed both. I never forgot it.
Be unexpectedly and absurdly helpful. Listen. Make intelligent introductions. Forward pertinent articles. Take initiative. Get satisfaction by adding value. The more you think critically about how you can help someone else, the more you will be repaid in kind.
Dhruva's take: "I think sometimes I actually scare people with how helpful I try to be (and how quickly I offer it). But I've won many more times than I've lost."
4) Seek out Connectors
It's the networking hack. In Dhruva's words, "I think being a full-time Connector is exhausting and doesn't let me do more thoughtful work. Instead, I spend a bunch of time with a few people who are Connectors, and build my network more efficiently. Networks are about trust, and it's much easier to build yours if someone else is your advocate."
5) Dinner parties: Go to them
If someone invites you, go. Bring something nice. Netflix will be waiting for you when you get back.