Networking is what creates those serendipitous connections that lead to success in business. Encourage them by being a positive presence wherever you are.
Think back on your entire work history. Can you recall instances where you happened onto a fantastic job or client simply by being in the right place at the right time? Or what about when the friend you ran into last night calls to tell you she’s just found exactly the opportunity you mentioned you were looking for? It happens unexpectedly often, but it isn’t as surprising as it may seem.
In fact, this kind of ‘lucky break’ is the predictable result of good networking. Each time you connect with someone you know (or meet) you’re increasing the likelihood of finding the client, position, investor or other opportunity that you desire. Whether through chance meetups or more deliberate arrangements, the exposure to others and their networks of friends and colleagues multiplies your chances. Kathryn Minshew discusses the principles of creating your own good luck through networking in an article published online in the Harvard Business Review. In it, she points to the power of good networking as the key to finding the opportunities you seek.
Real networking, the kind that creates those lucky breaks, isn’t limited to scheduled meetings with a specific person to discuss a particular goal. Instead, it’s an ongoing pattern of connecting to, communicating with and caring about the other people in your life, whether you think they’re in a position to do you any good or not. It’s about expanding your presence in your larger community and leaving the kind of impression that makes people want to say, “Hey, I know an awesome person you should talk to about that!” Some strategies to help encourage that are:
- Talk to everyone. This doesn’t mean you have to enter into endless chitchat that makes people want to avoid you. But limiting your talk to goal-driven conversation with only the people you think stand to do you some good is short-sighted, not to mention rude. The fact is, you have no idea what interests, skills or connections people have unless they’re your closest friends. Engaging in broad-ranging conversation with a wide variety of folks broadens your horizons and makes you a more interesting person to know. It also ups your odds of stumbling into an opportunity that will thrill you.
- Share your desires. You don’t have to feel awkward about opening up regarding the changes you’d like to make in your life. Mentioning the job or other opportunity you’ve been wanting is a fine way to connect with people, as long as you’re not whining or acting like a victim. Talking about real things and real desires is a legitimate topic of conversation, and it tends to deepen the relationship. If you show enough trust to let on to your real wants and needs, you just might learn about a chance to fulfill them. Try to stay positive and always listen to the feedback – you may have an idea that gives the other party a path to success, too!
- Be present. The more recently you’ve connected with someone, the fresher you’ll be in memory. So if your friends and acquaintances do happen to hear about the perfect fit for your current needs, you’ll pop into mind and they might wrangle an invitation that lets you have your chance. Naturally, the more positive these interactions are, the more motivated people become to help you out. Be a friend, be available and be around. Spending time out and about, connecting with new people as well as long term acquaintances is the best way to keep yourself and your desires at the top of their minds. When opportunity presents itself, you want to be the first person they think of to suggest.
What you know matters a lot. But who you know, how they think of you and how recently they’ve seen you count for a lot too. Increase your public presence and your circle of acquaintances to boost the chances of finding exactly the opportunities you seek. Lucky breaks aren’t based only on luck.