Have you ever said, “I don’t need to network!” with a assured confidence? Has anyone ever corrected you to explain that you, as well everyone else, not only needs to network, but is doing it every day already?

Networking often gets a bad wrap because people attend an awkward or pushy event that wears the title of “networking”.  For every terrible event, there are a handful of excellent ones, so you had the misfortune of getting invited to the wrong one.  But, if we judged all of our experiences based on an impression from one, we’d be missing out. Consider it this way: If you encountered one mean and angry dog, would you then assign the expectation that all dogs are mean and angry? I hope not.

More so, networking exists in your daily life, it doesn’t only live in the confines of an event. When you meet someone new, whether it be at the grocery store, office, or dinner party, that’s networking. When you catch up with you existing friends, colleagues, and even extended family, that’s networking. Any time you interact with someone, new or old, you are engaging in one part of the networking cycle. For better or for worse.

I’m here to help you embrace it and make the most of it. Because, as I will continue to remind you, you cannot escape networking. It happens in all interactions, everyday.

You may be saying, “No, still not me. I’m a stay-at-home parent”, or “I have a stable career so networking isn’t for me”, or any number of other excuses. These are additional misconceptions.  When was the last time you asked someone for a recommendation for a babysitter, auto shop, or tailor? You were relying on your network. If you’d not met and then kept up with these people, you wouldn’t have a network to fall back on to get these referrals. Or consider this: What if  you find yourself in a position like so many did in 2008 when the recession hit, unemployed or underemployed? To whom would you turn for help? Answer: Your network. Would it not behoove you to have a large network to whom you can turn to for advice and/or connections during either of these circumstances?  If the tables were turned, wouldn’t you prefer to help someone with whom you’d maintained a relationship over time, rather than someone whom you met once and then heard from years later when they need something? The unanimous answer is yes, you would prefer to help someone with whom you actually have a rapport or relationship.

So how do you begin to embrace the fact that your life is it’s own networking ecosystem? Just like in AA, you simply have to start by admitting and accepting that this is the case. Short of living the life of a hermit, you will be meeting people throughout the course of your days and it is to your advantage (and theirs) for you to  engage with others in a meaningful and intentional way.

Try a little exercise: The next time you’re stuck in a line or on an airplane, strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Get to know  a little about them.  This is a lay-up because they are a captive audience. For extra credit, ask them questions about themselves and see if you can identify a way in which you can help them in some way. You only get credit if you actually make good on that and try to use your connections and/or resources to do so.  Double-bonus points if you take their  information and follow up with them by way of an email or LinkedIn connection. You’ll see that these small gestures will take you a long way in standing out to people and making a great impression. You’ll also see how fun it can be to learn about other people and recognize how your network (fancy word for your contacts) can be of service to others.

Once you’ve embraced that the world is one big networking event and you’ve tried the previous exercise, come visit me again at www.NetworkUnder40.com to learn more about  how to cultivate and make the most of your network!

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