Our guest author Andrew Machota is the founder of New Town Connections, and author of Friend Request Accepted: Connecting In A Disconnected World.
“Networking” has such a negative, business connotation to it. But don’t let that dissuade you! People advance their careers and personal lives through networking because it really is all about who you know, not just what you know. The people in life who are the most successful also have the most established network of people. But how does one obtain that trusted, established, network of people? It takes time, as relationships aren’t built overnight and it all starts with that first step of putting yourself out there.
I have a little policy I call “Friends First.” When I go to a networking event, I approach new people I meet from the perspective that we must become friends first before anything else progresses with us, whether from a business perspective or on the social side. To me, you can never have enough friends. To believe otherwise is a short-sighted approach and will only do harm to you down the road. Allow more friends into your life, because you never know who you’re going to meet and what they’re going to lead you to. It could just be for fun, or they could lead you to some large business transactions. You just have to ask the right questions as until you ask, the answer will always be no.
Every time I’m at events, I ask myself, “Why did I meet this person?” It’s not about how I could use this person for my own gain, rather it‘s more of a thought process. If I can figure out why we met, then I can make a better assessment of this person’s role in my life and fully understand what I was meant to learn from this person, or offer to this person. You don’t meet people by chance – they’re in your life for a reason, it’s up to you to figure out why.
Always remember that networking happens all the time, even when you least expect it. Whether you’re playing sports, at church, volunteering, or salsa dancing, people are going to ask you “What do you do?” because that’s one of the most common default questions people like to ask. So be prepared, have a funny answer when needed, and keep it light. You’re not going to close any deals in the first five minutes of a conversation. You have to build a rapport, get to know that person, and make an active attempt to engage them in conversation. The more in depth questions you ask, the better you’ll be. People like to talk, so keep asking questions, attend as many events as you can (even ones outside your wheelhouse) and your network will expand quickly!