During yesterday’s post about acquiring a financial education, I mentioned finding a financial mentor. Today, I want to elaborate on that and broaden out into a wider topic: developing a network of friends, associates, acquaintances, and colleagues who can help you achieve your dreams.
We all know that one of the best ways to get somewhere is to ask directions from someone who has already been there. The same is true in business and personal finance. If you want to launch a bakery, find a successful baker and ask them how they did it. If you want to own your own home, making friends with a real estate attorney gives you an informed resource to answer your questions. If you want to travel the world, other globetrotters can tell you the best spots to see, how to get there, and how to orient yourself once you’re there.
Meeting new people is tough, especially once you’re done with school. Most of us probably only meet the occasional new coworker, or someone introduced to us by a friend or family member. Beyond that, our social circle doesn’t grow much (and might actually dwindle, as we lose contact with old associates). But I want to challenge you to do something. Go meet someone today. And go meet someone new every day this week. Get into the habit of constantly expanding your social circle.
Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone is one of my favorite books about professional networking. In one of the early passages of the book, Ferrazzi points at the crux of why you want to continually meet new people.
I’ve come to believe that connecting is one of the most important business — and life — skill sets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like. Careers — in every imaginable field — work the same way.
Who Do You Want To Meet?
Let’s be honest. Who you associate with is important. We all know the lazy person who wants to be successful, but doesn’t want it enough to do any of the hard work that success requires. We all know the person who is jealous of the accomplishments of others and spends all their time and energy belittling them. We all know that person who accomplishes nothing in life because they’re too busy stirring up meaningless drama and generally being unpleasant. The people you want to associate with aren’t like that.
You want to associate with intelligent, highly skilled people.
You want to associate with positive, supportive people.
You want to associate with mature, responsible people.
My personal criteria? I want to associate with people who exhibit qualities I want to develop within myself. If I want to learn how to be more motivated, I want to find people who are motivated, and who put their energy towards motivating others. If I want to be successful with money, I want to get to know people who are succeeding with money, so I can learn from them. If I want to create and build my own business, I want to discover successful entrepreneurs and learn about their growth as a businessperson.
You can think about who you want to meet through the lens of what you want to accomplish. If your goal is to get a job with a major accounting firm, who might you try to meet? You might try to meet accountants, of course. But you might also try to meet successful entrepreneurs who are clients of those accountants. You might try to meet professors of accounting who can help you make a connection with one of their former students.
So Where Do You Meet People?
Once you know the kinds of people you want to meet, you can meet people ANYWHERE. Here are some ideas:
Get Off The Internet
You’ll note that most of the ideas listed above don’t involve the Internet. Nothing beats a face-to-face introduction. If you want to build a solid relationship with someone, meet them in a way that lets you shake their hand. Go out for coffee, grab lunch together, talk to them in a space where they can see you and hear you in reality. You’ll learn more about them, and they’ll learn more about you.
If You Want To Get, GIVE
I’m going to tell you a secret about meeting people. Convincing someone that you’re interesting is hard work. You can try all you like to tell them about what you’re doing and why they should pay attention to it, but you won’t get very far. So how do you build a professional relationship with someone?
You do it by being interested in THEM. Find out what they’re working on and find a way to help. If you want to develop a professional relationship with a business owner, examine his business and find out some way you can help him. Maybe he needs a graphic designer for a new logo, and you happen to know just the one.
By offering your time to help someone with their own project, you do two things. One, you learn something new, which is always a reward in itself. Two, you build some social equity with the person you’re helping. People remember those who help them, and are likely to reciprocate when you need it.
But I’m An Introvert! Help!
More about professional networking:
I’m an introvert too. I tend to shy away from big social events. I keep few close friends, I’m not very comfortable with small talk, and I always feel like I need a long detox period after spending a lot of time with strangers. Meeting new people is tiring and can make me feel crowded and overwhelmed.
But that doesn’t make building a professional network any less useful. Meeting new people is a key to my own success. It’s well worth the awkwardness and habitual dread that might come from such situations. The key isn’t to use your introversion as an excuse to not engage — it’s tounderstand that you’re an introvert, meet people anyway, and do the things you need to do to take care of yourself.
Here’s what I mean. When I’m already tired or not feeling well, I want to be left alone. Putting me in a social situation when I feel like that just makes me feel cranky, defensive, and tense. Instead, I focus on trying to meet people when I’m feeling good. When I’m feeling positive and energized, meeting new people isn’t as draining.
For an introvert, social preparation is key. If I want to attend a social function coming up, I can worry about it and dread it, and expend all my energy on that worry. Or I can reaffirm for myself that meeting new people opens doors to my success and take proactive steps to boost myself up, like taking some alone time before the event to recharge, or clarifying for myself what I want to accomplish at the event.
Because I understand my introverted nature, I can work within it and still be successful at meeting new people and building new relationships. You can too.
Tomorrow: Do 1% Better Today (And Every Day)
Tomorrow, 31 Days To Your Financial Future continues. We’ll be talking about growth — specifically, how every day is a day to improve your financial standing and make better decisions, even if it’s just by the tiniest amount. Small changes add up to big victories.
How’s your network doing?
Are you a social butterfly, or do you find professional networking to be hard? Are there things you worry about when it comes to meeting new people? Tell us about it your comments!