|"Ferdinand of Hungary meeting with Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain at Nördlingen" - Peter Paul Rubens|
But I think of some of the opportunities I’ve had over the years, some of the people I’ve been so fortunate to meet, some of the places I’ve been able to go and things I’ve been able to do… and yeah. Lots of those opportunities came from my “network” (those quotes are me cringing at that word).
So uh… How in the world did I develop a network when I’m not good at networking?
You hear so much about how it's all about who you know, how you have to network, etc. etc. For me personally, it's not something I made a conscious choice to do.
When I look back, I think there have been two big things that helped, and they’re things anyone can do:
1. Do not think of your network as a network.
2. Build something.
Do Not Think of Your Network as a Network
I don’t have a network, I have friends. And I’m really serious about this.
The thing about the word “networking” is that it has a mercenary edge to it, like we’re just going to get to know each other because of what we can get out of each other. And not only is that completely icky, it doesn’t work.
Because who wants to get to know someone else just because of what they can get out of them? How shallow is that relationship, and how is either party really motivated to help each other out when the time comes?
Find the people who you like and whose work you genuinely admire, and invest in those people. Become friends with those people. Don’t force it, don’t do it because they’re successful, do it because you like them and actually want to help them out.
Obviously when your network expands you can’t invest equally in everyone who is investing in you, but give of yourself what you can and treat people with respect and pretty soon you’ll be surrounded by amazing people that you’ll feel incredibly lucky to know.
And that leads to #2.
Building things opens doors. For me it was the blog and the Jacob Wonderbar novels, but other people have built groups or organizations or journals or a Twitter following or any number of things.
When you build something it’s more than just creating a platform or a bully pulpit, what’s amazing about building something is that it will ultimately attract like-minded people to you.
You’re putting a part of yourself out there, and pretty soon you’ll find that you’re drawing in other people who like the things you like and share your outlook and worldview. It’s an amazing thing, and I’ve found some of my best, real-life friends through the blogosphere and social media.
And ultimately that leads right back to point number #1. It may seem trite or twee, but look: You’re not building a network, you’re making friends.