In September, I was pumped to accept an internship offer from HubSpot. It was a dream because I was huge fan of the founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan. My goals were to add value, learn a ton and build lasting relationships. With over 400 employees, I needed to figure out a way to meet as many people as humanly possible in my part time working there. This is how I hacked the process:
- Start early: Don’t wait until your first day at the company to get to know your co-workers. I was following some HubSpot employees on twitter way before I had applied for an internship. This gave me a head start on having a list of people I can possible meet at the company. Another way I got ahead was by attending the massive event that HubSpot organizes called INBOUND. I met a lot of HubSpotters at the event who ended up being one of the first people I had lunch with at the start of my internship.
- Ask for Referrals: Naturally and subconsciously, I ended up using a classic sales technique: referrals. When I was having lunch with someone, I asked for recommendations of people who I should have lunch with. This way I was getting a pulse on who the rockstars at the company were and made sure to have lunch with them. Another reason why this technique works is context. I could ping the recommended person without hesitation and tell them that “Chris recommended that I get lunch with you.” This made it almost impossible for them to say no.
- Be creative: I thought that the normal “Would love to grab lunch with you” might not scale at a 400 person company. So, I decided to eat HubSpot’s own dogfood i.e “inbound.” The company has its own ‘wiki’ utilizing Atlassian’s product called Confluence. I created a page on the wiki called “Smit Patel’s Lunch Hustle” (keeping the hustler brand intact ofcourse). The page was a small introduction of myself and was going to list all the folks I had lunch with and what I learned from them. This hit two birds with one stone. First is I started getting inbound requests for lunch from folks instead of me asking them. This way I met people I might have not known about otherwise. Second thing the page achieved is it helped me show how much I really appreciated the people’s time. To show that I actually learned something from them made them feel special and show that their time was well spent.
- Think scale: Whether its business/startups/marketing, you always need to think about scale/distribution. Using the company wiki helped to amplify my goal to possibly the whole company which would’ve been impossible (unless I had told every person in the company about it). Another channel that helped was the company newsletter. Looking at my hustle, my page was featured in the HubSpot weekly internal newsletter which helped to spread the word as well.
- Meet a variety of people: Make sure to meet folks from different departments to get a sense of how each department works. It helps to understand what each person’s impact on the company is and appreciate their job. As an intern, it can be really useful because if you want to learn something new, knowing people of different skill sets can help you get there. When you are lunching with different folks, don’t forget to get on the calendar of the influencers i.e executives. I had lunch with the CEO, CMO, VP of Business Development and VP of Sales. They are really busy people so ask them early to get a time couple weeks down the line.
- Don’t be afraid: This is quite possibly the most important part of the puzzle. A lot of people heavily understimate the value of “asking.” I saw our CEO Brian Halligan in the office couple weeks after I started the internship and went up to him and asked him to grab lunch. He was more than happy to say yes. When you are young, this helps you to look different and show your hustle. The worst case is they will say no and you won’t be kicking yourself that you never tried. As human beings, we usually like to talk about ourselves so when you ask someone, say something like “I’d love to get lunch with you and hear your story.” I met over 30 people despite working part time.
- Do your homework: This applies to any meeting or sales situations in life. When you are meeting or talking to someone, do the research. Google them and look at their linkedin, twitter, blog, website etc. You want to have context when you meet them to start the conversation. “So Mark, how did you go from being an engineer to running sales teams?” sounds a lot better than “So Mark, lets hear your story.” It also shows the other person that you did some research on them which is how you knew that they have an engineering background. Small things do help.
Instead of networking, I would say that I built relationships at my company. Networking as a word sounds very selfish and as if you are only trying to meet someone to get something out of them. Business is about relationships. If you genuinely care about learning and hearing people’s stories, you will build a relationship with them. Once this exists you can ask for something from them or vice versa. But remember, its a two way stream.
There are several benefits of building relationships inside your company. First is it will help you to meet people from all walks of lives and hear really interesting stories about their lives and learn from them. Second is it will help you to build a brand inside the company. Now we all know how important that is to grow professionally. Third is you can have an impact on the company culture. After looking at my lunch hustle, HubSpot officially started a lunch roulette program where the company would pay the tab for having lunch with 4 employees from different teams. Lastly, you can make new friends. I can proudly say that I have made a lot of new friends in a short period of time and it would have not been possible without my “networking” aka building relationships.
Any thoughts or questions? Tweet me @thesmitpatel.