This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com - #Growing Your Business
Three tips for making and maximizing professional connections.
5 min read
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We all dream of having a network that grants us access. We want someone we can call in every industry for any question or concern that comes up, and we want to know who to go to for an introduction to someone else. A game-changing network does this.
For me, my interest in building a game-changing network came about when I started to research just how much the people we spend time around impact us. We’ve all heard the quote, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time around,” but an article by David Burkus completely changed my mindset. Titled, “You’re NOT the Average of the Five People You Spend the Most Time Around,” the article talks about how, actually, we’re impacted by everyone who surrounds us — so much so that data predicts that if a friend of a friend is obese, we are 45 percent more likely to become obese in the next two-to-four years. (Obesity was chosen as a data point because it was more measurable than something like success or motivation.)
Your network rules more than just the contacts you can reach out to on an as-need basis. What you see when you scroll through social media, what you talk about when you’re out to dinner with friends and what occupies your mental real estate all comes down to your network. Change your friends, change your life. But how, exactly?
1. Spend time where your ideal connections will be
It’s important to surround yourself with the right people, even if you’re just working around them. I started working at a WeWork space at the end of last year and made a group of great friends who have similar priorities and ambitions. We began to hang out outside of WeWork and help each other with our professional goals. Many coworking spaces also offer weekly happy hours and other opportunities to meet the entrepreneurs who work there. Or, you can simply strike up conversation at the trusty kombucha station.
A creative approach to this is to regularly visit other spaces that may be frequented by your ideal connections, such as the restaurants within your city’s five-star hotels or luxurious gyms. Bring your laptop and set up shop at the restaurant bar for a cup of coffee or the gym’s cafe. See who you can strike up conversation with.
2. Attend events where you can unlock direct counsel
Events are at the top of the list, too. I’ve met some of my best connections at conferences with likeminded people who are also there to learn and expand their businesses, because we’re all there for the same reason and care about the same things. I was recently catching up with Greg S. Reid, the creator of the event Secret Knock, which I’ll be attending next month. Reid and I discussed how this direct access is really all it’s about.
“The day your life will change is when you have direct access to counsel,” he told me. Counsel, in this case, is different than an opinion. If you’re looking to market your new book, asking a friend for an opinion won’t hold a candle to asking someone who’s done it before and done it successfully for counsel. I’ve found that events offer an unparalleled opportunity to hear from speakers and panelists who have done the exact things I want to do before — and then I’m in the same room as them! This is always a good conversation-starter after the fact. They’re far more likely to respond to an email or accept a LinkedIn message if you lead with, “It was great to hear from you at the event this Saturday.”
So, reverse engineer the process for yourself. What type of event can get you near the most ideal connections? How can you talk to them and unlock that counsel? Getting yourself out there and into the right rooms makes all the difference.
3. Assess how you feel after you spend time with someone
Another pertinent note on this topic is to conduct what I call “The Energy Test.” When you leave someone’s presence — whether you were just chatting on the phone or having a networking coffee session — do you feel energized, like you just took five shots of espresso? Or do you feel like they just zapped you and you now need a nap?
A game-changing network not only harbors the experience and knowhow to help you change your life and career, but the ability to energize and empower you — be it through the conversation topic, how they advise you or simply their own energy.
Ultimately, I don’t believe that a game-changing network is make or break when excelling into our own stratosphere. Rather, having a network of people who can provide direct counsel and energize the magic within us is what it’s all about. We change the game on our own, and that’s how we, in turn, provide value to our network.