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Want to have a sleepover?

Remember those days: when your mom or dad would make you go to some kid's sleepover or join a sports team because you would "make friends"?  I hate to tell you this, no matter how much you hated that sport, class or kid - they were right. Amazingly enough, they were teaching you how to network with people before you needed it.  In university, I would have called it pub night.  Now, as a business professional, it's called networking.

What is networking? It's the ability to spark a conversation and connection with someone either like-minded or looking for someone with your skillet/experience/connections at a public event. (Yep, sorry - still involves people)

Whether at the new kid's sleep over, your first pub night out with the crowd from the dorm or a busy business event, a lot of us still feel super awkward. A lot of people feel like they're intruding on your personal space and time and would rather shy away from the act of networking. The discomfort of feeling as though you're forcing yourself on to someone else or in their space is commonplace really.  But if you feel that way when networking, I know I feel that way when networking, why don't we just accept that we will feel uncomfortable and move on? Anticipating the fact that it will not be necessarily 100% pleasant means that we're able to plan for it and avoid or move beyond it quickly.

Then there's practicing.  Every day.  That's how we got better at piano lessons or tap dancing, right? Every day we should be taking the time to make connections with people.  Not a whole, big, chunk of time - 5 minutes.  Take five minutes from your day and make a phone call.  Or write an e-mail, send some texts, forward a link, etc. Heck - talk to the barrista at Starbuck's about how your day is going. Making the time is the thing you're practicing - we don't always put the effort in to make time for people and you need to if you're going to network effectively.

In the end though, you have to make yourself a lot more visible to more of the population of your area. You can only network so far through your (current) existing friends and family.  Aim to meet one new person each day.  With this, we could take over the world.

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