by Stever Robbins
Today's topic is networking. The quick and dirty tip is to start with your current network — it's larger than you think (and guys don't get too excited. I said, your network is larger than you think).
Some things are solitary activities. You can do them alone and everything is great. Crossword puzzles, jogging, and literary criticism can all be done alone. But other favorite activities can only be done in a group. Synchronized swimming, pub crawls, and mud wrestling come to mind. I tried mud wrestling by myself, once. The joy was just... gone.
Life Is a Group Activity
Life is a group activity. Humans are built to travel in groups, and virtually everything we do these days involves other people, either directly or indirectly. Old science fiction novels painted a picture of the future where everything would be automated. "Work" would be showing up to push a button. Do we really want that? Without other people, we have no one to order around, no one to kow-tow to for favor (except our sweetie, of course), and no one to give us ambiguous, unreasonable goals. Life would be hell. Fortunately, that's not our world.
In our world, people do key stuff in our lives. People choose what to pay us. People decide when to hire us, fire us, and promote us. People give us tips, share our burdens, hug us, help us move, and, on our birthday, give us an Oreo cake bigger than our head so we can truthfully say to our trainer at the gym, "I haven't bought any ice cream since I started working out." (Tyler, if you are listening, I am not talking about my birthday cake. Really.) People are almost as big a part of our life as shrink-wrap.
Especially in business, someone else—a people–will make virtually every important decision about your success. Your customers, your boss, your funders, your coworkers will all have a say. When you look for a job, the hiring manager, the HR people, and people you interview with all have a say in your future. The more people you have rooting for you and looking out for you, the greater your chances for success! So get lots of people on your side.
The way you get those people is simple. The modern-day term for it is "networking." I hate that term. Computers network; people make friends. They meet each other. They help each other. Networking events are so not the way to go. They're like your worst nightmare of a high school dance. You stand in a corner sipping your punch, hoping someone will come by and take you away to Happily Ever After. Instead, you get one awkward adolescent with a penchant for nose picking, who's filling every available pocket with cheese cubes because, as he eagerly explains, he might be hungry later... Wait, I forget. Am I talking about high school or adult networking events? Hmm. Whatever.
If you're an introvert like me, this already sounds like a daunting task. I tried making friends in middle school. It didn't work. But I eventually made one, and that's enough to get started.
Keeping Up with Friends Is Fun
If you're building a network of friends, start with the ones (or one) you have. Make a big list. Start with your drinking buddies. No one likes you more than the people who share your Juicy-Juice. Add to the list people from work you like. Toss in a mix of old school friends, relatives you don't want to kill, and anyone you know through hobbies. Yes, even the little old lady from your knitting circle who is obsessed with banana slugs. That must have been some a fraternity party at UC Santa Cruz and back in '47. Go Slugs!
Now start reconnecting. And I don't mean some stupid e-mail blast or social media link. Call. Make one or two calls a day. As tempting as it will be to talk about yourself, resist. Ask and listen. Find out what they're up to. If they beg for info about you, tell them, demurely. You're listening for their interests, loves, and stories. Have a nice chat and schedule a follow-up for yourself about three months later when you give a brief catch-up call. So starting in three months, each day you will call one new person and reconnect with one person you've already called.
The goal is not to ask for a job, or favor. Just friendship. Share your lives, connect. Help each other out if the chance comes up. A friend called, mentioned he needs a job, and it just so happened I knew the CEO of the company he wants to work for. A week later, it's a done deal. Why was I willing to help him out? Because he's a friend. He calls occasionally. He shows interest in me and my life. It's hard not to be interested in his. I tried, of course, but despite my best efforts, we're likely friends for life.
So go catch up with your lifelong friends. They are the ones who will support you, through thick and thin, if you keep the relationship strong. So go reconnect. They're much more fun than your iPod (except for this podcast, of course). Trust me.
This is Stever Robbins. If you have a question about how to Work Less and Do More, e-mail email@example.com or leave voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
RESOURCES: - Episode on meeting people at networking events