A lot of people tell me networking makes them uncomfortable—that it’s weird and awkward.
Networking can be that way sometimes, especially when you first start, but I am going to help you overcome your fear by using myself as an example.
Below are 10 actions I almost didn’t take because I feared rejection or someone labeling me as weird and awkward:
1. I spent more than 30 hours emailing 55 people.
When I wrote “The Ultimate Networking Tips Guide: 87 Killer Resources” I spent days writing emails to the authors of the articles I featured. Each email was personal and explained how the author has helped me achieve success. Writing the emails took longer than finding all 87 links!
Result: Many authors whom I idolize wrote back telling me they were honored to be featured. Many of them shared the article with their networks.
Lesson: Thank people who have helped you no matter how famous they might be. You would think they get thank-you emails all the time, but they don’t. They mostly get emails seeking help. Make their day.
2. I asked people on Twitter to grab drinks.
I tweeted two complete strangers (one was a New York Times best-selling author) to ask if they wanted to get drinks.
Lesson: The answer is always no unless you ask.
3. I reached out to 1,000 strangers on LinkedIn.
When I graduated from college and started looking for a job, I joined my college alumni group on LinkedIn. I went through every member in the group to see if they were located in New York and worked in marketing/public relations. I wrote a LinkedIn message to each person who fit the criteria and asked them for help.
I had so much success that I joined about 20 marketing/public relations groups on LinkedIn and used the same strategy. I ended up emailing more than 1,000 complete strangers.
Result: Everyone who responded gave me great advice, which helped me land my first job. One of those people is my mentor, and we’ve been talking for the last six years.
Lesson: Ask for help! People are willing to help if you are polite and ask them in the right way.
4. I respond to everyone who tweets my articles.
See for yourself at @Jmmuscarello. I love connecting with people who share my articles and find them helpful. I always ask about their favorite part of the article.
Result: I use the feedback people provide to create better content.
Lesson: Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and people appreciate that you listen.
5. I followed up with Gary Vaynerchuk for eight months to get a 10-minute interview.
Gary Vaynerchuk is my idol, and I always wanted to interview him. He rejected me when I first reached out. The second time I reached out, he accepted. But when the big day finally came, he didn’t call.
I was bummed. I followed up, and it turned out there was a scheduling conflict. We were able to set a new date.
Result: I was able to interview my idol, whom I consider to be the ultimate networker.
Lesson: People are busy; they are not trying to hurt your feelings. Sometimes they just need a friendly reminder.
6. I spent three vacation days at a conference.
I attended 99U’s Pop-Up School, and paid for it myself.
Result: It was one of the best vacations I ever took. I had the time of my life.
Lesson: Investing in your personal development is essential to success.
7. I send thank-you notes to people who help me.
My thank-you notes are always handwritten and sometimes include something special. I even developed the acronym G.R.E.A.T to help other people write great professional thank-you notes.
Result: A blog post I wrote about how to write a professional thank-you note has become one of my most popular posts.
Lesson: Don’t underestimate the power of simplicity. It’s the little things that make people happy.
8. I send follow-up emails after networking events.
If I meet someone at a networking event that I want to get to know, I email him. I always make the follow-up email about the other person. It’s never about how he can help me—it’s always about how I might be able to help him.
Results: I have helped and received advice from some of the smartest people in my industry.
Lesson: You have to take initiative and follow up with people. They are not going to reach out to you.
9. I sent someone pajamas and slippers for her birthday.
I got the idea after we were talking on the phone one night and she mentioned that the state she just moved to was very cold. It turned out to be a pretty memorable gift.
Result: She later told me on the phone, “I think of you every night when I put on my slippers.”
Lesson: A memorable gift doesn’t always need to be complicated or fancy.
10. I email people just to say hello.
A typical email could be as simple as this. I don’t need anything from the people I contact. I send them an article or a new tool I read about that will help them in their career or business.
Results: People return the favor, and share the same types of articles with me.
Lesson: Be helpful without having an agenda. This is how you build true friendships and relationships.
Embrace being different and use it to your advantage. When you are like everyone else, you are no longer memorable.
Which strategy is your favorite? Leave a comment below.
This article first appeared on Ragan.com in March 2014.