One business event per month and a little LinkedIn every now and then is what networking involves for you? Then it’s definitely not your lifestyle. It should be though! The best networkers don’t just allocate time intentionally for connecting: they also talk to people everywhere and always – at the supermarket, on the tube, at the gym. And they do so for at least four reasons.
It’s a muscle
Networking is like a muscle: the more you train it, the stronger it will be. If you attend a networking event and are not used to talking to people, you will probably be nervous, connect with hardly anyone and leave early and frustrated. If you keep talking to people everywhere you go, you will not only be accustomed to it but also great at it, and thus rock every event you attend. Start by saying hi to five strangers a day this week, ask a question to five people a day next week, and engage in a conversation with five new faces a day the week after. This coaching technique is called layering, and will work wonders for your social skills, and thus confidence.
It will be needed
Ever gone through a breakup and had to build your social circle from scratch because you neglected your friends during your relationship? Or lost a job and had to start networking like crazy, because you had never done it before? “Dig your well before you’re thirsty“, recommends Harvey MacKay. Because sooner or later you will be thirsty. In other words, there will surely come a day in which you’ll need a network. If you start today and make it a habit, you won’t need to get ready when something happens: you will already be ready.
The best connections happen casually – in random places and when you least expect it. Locations everyone goes to, like the supermarket, are ideal: you’ll be able to find any kind of people there – including the ones you might share synergies with. You never know who you meet, and you never know whom these people have in their network. Perhaps this very person you’re chatting to now won’t be able to help you directly, but someone in their network will. For more on this, cf. commandments 3 and 4 of our “The Ten Commandments of Networking“. So when you are out and about, look around, make eye-contact and talk to people!
If we practice reciprocity, networking karma, and especially universal compassion, we find each human being interesting and are excited to discover their world. Moreover, we want to add value to their lives, regardless of what comes back. Giving is thus also an act of pleasure. For instance, I can’t describe the excitement I get when I connect two people. They say doing things you enjoy makes you a happy person: therefore, if you are a genuine networker, the more social interactions you have, the more joyful your life will be.
Now, networking as a lifestyle does involve a little investment of time and money, don’t get me wrong. But we did develop a few tricks for these challenges too. Find them out in our articles “3 time management ideas for offline networking” and “Networking on a budget“.