I know what you’re thinking. “Ugh, another article about business mixers & small talk?”
Let’s get real.
Do you know who Blair Waldorf is? She’s basically my hero in life. Blair Waldorf knows everyone in New York, always gets what she wants and throws the best parties. Okay, okay, so she’s a fictional character on Gossip Girl, but she still taught us some good lessons.
So again, let’s get real.
Your network is everyone you know. Not just in a professional setting. It’s your friends, your family, your family friends, your classmates, co-workers and competitors. This life and this experience on Earth is all about our relationships with one another. And there is nothing more human than the experiences we have in our relationships. The great loves, the struggles, the fights, the births, the deaths. And all of these experiences the enrich our lives happen within our tribe of humans.
With that being said, do me a quick favor. Ask yourself one question. What you want more of in your life? Do you want more love? More money, a better job? More plans on the weekends? Better hair extensions?
Stop reading, take 1 minute to think about it. What do you want more of?
Let me tie this all together for you.
If you want more _____, and network like Blair Waldorf, you’ll get it. How?
This is about expanding your network the right way. You’re not letting just anyone on your team. You are hand picking the right people in the world that will serve your life. You are choosing to run in the right circles. Right is whatever right means to you.
I don’t mean this in a selfish way. You’re not picking out friends that can get you thing, status, connections, or money. You’re attracting the people that are on your same wavelength, that are pushing for greatness in their own worlds, that you can serve with your friendship, that you can inspire and be inspired by.
This means more job leads, more dates, more invitations, more adventures, more drinks, more nights dancing on tables. If that’s what you want.
So no, this is not about how to schmooze over a white wine spritzer at a business mixer. This is about how to enhance your life experience and get more of what you want by enhancing your network.
Here’s your Action Plan:
Stop Going To Business Networking Events
I mean, there is nothing more awkward or thirsty than people in cheap suits clutching cheap drinks all there to “network.” Everyone is looking out for what they can get out of the experience, so you get a room filled with people who are interested in getting a new job.
Start by identifying people to connect with in organic ways. Where have you made friends before? Would you prefer to be chatted up casually or approached with a hard sell from a piranha trying to get something out of you? Introduce yourself to everyone, always.
In line for coffee at a conference for your industry. The people you sit with at trainings for your company. Get to know your co-worker’s spouses and friends over drinks & apps. The girls in the bathroom at an event. Seriously.
(We’ll talk about conversation starters and continuers at another time.)
Just Show Up
Say “Yes” to everything. Every invitation, every experience. You have to just go and try. New classes, training seminars and conferences (that you can probably get your company to pay for, just ask,) clubs, sport teams, classes, parties, dinners, drinks, etc.
But this isn’t just about dabbling in Chinese Calligraphy one day, Rock Climbing on a random Tuesday and scuba diving once in your lifetime. Get to be a regular. I heard a great quote from a famous waiter, (yes, that is a thing,) that said, “To be a regular, you have to be a regular.” Even going to the same bar regularly, you will get ot know the other regulars. Hey, you both like Gin Gimlets, I think that’s enough to base a lifetime of friendship on.
The mere exposure effect teaches us that the more we put ourselves in front of the same people, the more pleasing and likeable that person appears to be. Everyone wants to be liked, right? So after you just show up, keep showing up. You have to be consistent in building a relationship, going to dinner with someone just one time won’t cut it.
Stop networking. Start making real connections.
Keep the end game in mind at all times. You’re looking for real friends and real connections here. Not a collection of business cards. If you’ve ever felt like you’re at a speed dating event, you’re doing it wrong! If you’re trying to get your Linkden connection numbers up, you’re being stupid. Those connections are meaningless, they are not REAL connections.
In order to make real connections, you have be connecting with people who are also interested in real relationships, ask questions, be open to share and to listen and get ready to commit.
When you lead with love & good intentions, your energy will be transparent. You know when people are talking to you to try to get something out of you, don’t’ you? Don’t be that person.
You’re here to make friends.
Making new friends can be awkward. It’s kind of like dating.
I’ve found that there are two really easy ways to break through the barrier of “Are we friends and are we moving this relationship along.”
1. Introduce a new friend as a new friend to someone else. “Mark, I’d love you to meet my new friend Ashley! We met last week at an acrobat convention.” Whether you do this over email or in person, make sure the person hears you indirectly define your connection as a friendship. It’s also semi-flattering, non-confrontational & non-awkward.
2. Admit to your new friend how weird and hard it is to make new friends! “Girls are weird!” “It’s like dating!” “How do you meet people?” Sharing the discomfort is a bonding experience, just another commonality. Acknowledge the weirdness & it dissipates.
And if all else fails.. just remember…
“You can’t make people love you, but you can make them fear you.” – Blair Waldorf.