As I stood in the bowels of a hotel, deep in one of its overly inoffensive conference rooms, I thought to myself, Networking doesn’t have to be like this! Strangely, though, networking as become a cliché and yet it’s vitally important to prolonged success in any area of your life.
When I think about networking, an image comes to mind: Groups of people awkwardly standing around a posh hotel, discussing topics that require the bare minimum of personality or emotional depth.
But it doesn’t have to be like that!
If you’re looking to improve yourself, you’re going to need to network. If you want to change careers, find a life partner or feel a strong urge to be better, you need to meet people who can help you accomplish that goal.
“Hello! My name is…”
How many people do you see in one day? If you live in a large city, you might pass hundreds (perhaps thousands) of human beings, each as complex and wrapped up in their existence as you are.
Leveraging that fact is the first step to making networking exciting.
One of the old adages in the networking manuals of old is, “It’s not who you know, it’s who you know knows.” Each person you walk by on the street likely knows someone who can help you achieve what you’re currently trying to achieve.
The secret to unlocking that power is to… talk to them.
Talking to new people makes your life exciting because it makes it unpredictable. Every single conversation you have with a new person is potentially life-changing. To embrace the fear of a stranger rejecting you is you telling yourself that the risk of rejection is worth the possibility of becoming the person you dream of being.
Realistically, it’s super inefficient to talk to random people on the street. It’s too chaotic, too unfocused. What if there were a way that we could dramatically increase our chances of meeting someone we want to meet and who does something we enjoy?
Spaghetti and meatballs, peanut butter and jelly, hobbies and jobs.
If you’re looking to land your dream job or career, it might be worth changing up your hobbies. It might sound strange, but in my experience, people with similar jobs tend to gravitate toward similar extracurricular activities.
For example, I was in Weymouth (on the south coast of the U.K.) rock climbing with some friends. Weymouth is a kind of rock-climbing mecca, and as I spoke to the fellow climbers, I began seeing a strange pattern: They were all programmers! In fact, the friends who had driven me down were programmers, too.
The more I thought about it, the more patterns I started to see: A lot of business analysts play squash, writers go to book clubs, and middle managers for consultancy firms go road cycling.
If you’re looking to get into a profession or meet people in a specific sector:
Go on Meetup.com.
Join a professional networking group for the job or industry you are interested in.
Look at profiles of other members and see what other informal meetup groups they’re involved with.
Not only will you get to meet the people you’re looking to meet, you’ll also find yourself doing activities that you never thought you’d do. Speaking of which…
Do the things you’ve always wanted to do.
The most exciting way of networking is simply to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.
You know that language you want to learn? Stop messing around with apps on your phone and head to a class. You want to become a jazz singer? It’s time to take that smooth voice out of the shower and into an open mic night. You want to fight crime? Maybe it’s time to join the Avengers.
OK, that last one was a joke, but it’s important that you start doing whatever you already do, but socially.
I’m a guitar player and I used to always play to myself in my room. When I started going to open mic gigs, people would come up to me afterward to talk about the songs I played, music projects I might like to be involved in or just to congratulate me. Thus, opening the gates for a new friendship/business partner/significant other.
Similarly, if you take a class for a thing you’ve always wanted to learn, you’ll learn a lot about the other people during your course. You’ll see who’s committed, who helps their fellow students and who the sociable people are (they’ll chat after class). After a few weeks of attending the class, you’ll have a clear idea of who you’d like to engage with in the future and who you don’t.
Moving your life forward begins by attracting new and amazing people into your life. So get out there!