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Contrary to its generally negative connotation, networking is one of the key elements for growth and progress. No, I’m not referring to the sell-life-insurance-to-your-Facebook-friends type of “networking”.
I am talking about forming real connections, attending relevant events, and garnering genuine, meaningful relationships. I credit networking for a majority of my successes in business, relationships, and life in general.
Forming Connections through Networking
“How do I form real connections?” — This is one of the most common questions I hear from aspiring network builders.
The answer is simple: Be genuine!
Most people can see straight through a fake smile or a forced conversation. If you and the other party don’t have much in common, then he or she might not be a great connection.
You don’t have to be friends with everybody. That’s unrealistic! Instead, focus on those people who you really “click” with.
A Two-Way Street
Networking is a two-way street. If you have nothing to bring to the table, the other party will have less reason to pursue a lasting connection with you.
NEVER ask for a favor during the initial conversation. Nobody wants to feel like they are being used or taken advantage of. Instead, find common ground and engage in genuine dialogue.
During college, I would reach out to individuals on LinkedIn every day who worked in jobs or companies I was interested in. Instead of asking for a favor, I would ask about their career, interests, or working journey.
These personal conversations were much easier to have than a “Hey could you help me get a job?”
Something that I learned quickly is that everybody loves to talk about themselves. So, I would generally focus on asking personal questions and give the other party a chance to detail his or her accomplishments. After this initial, friendly conversation I felt more comfortable asking for a small favor.
I earned every single one of my jobs and internships through networking.
It’s really not what you know… It’s who you know.
Once a connection has been formed, it’s important to maintain it. Following up periodically can be a great way to garner a lasting relationship.
DON’T send annoying, incessant emails with no relevance or value.
DO send periodic, thoughtful emails about relevant topics.
Remember, networking is a two-way street. Send your new connection useful tools, informative articles, or business opportunities. If you give then you shall receive!
As a general rule of thumb, I typically send only emails for follow-ups with new connections. However, as the relationship grows and deepens, communicating may become more personal like texting or calling. It depends on the person!
The Power of Networking Events
I personally think that events are one of the most powerful catalysts for growth and success. No matter what your niche is, connecting with like minds in the community can introduce new ideas, change your perspectives, and fuel your motivation.
Earlier this year I attended Camp FI SouthEast (an amazing event organized by Stephen Baughier) and it changed my life. That event is actually what inspired me to start this blog!
Not only did I form dozens of deep connections with awesome people, but I also received a tremendous amount of support for beginning my FI journey so early. I still talk to many of the campers I met on a regular basis. It’s so astonishing how genuine and supportive this community is.
Get out there and find great events that are relevant to your passions and meet up with like-minded individuals! I promise you won’t regret it.
I’m also SUPER excited to attend my first FinCon this year. FinCon is THE conference for personal finance bloggers. The event runs from September 26th to September 29th this year. Here, I will be able to meet hundreds of other like-minded individuals and expand my network. It’s basically heaven for finance nerds like me. I’ll definitely be writing a recap so stay tuned!
Without a community, your passion can become lonely. You may lose your motivation and give up on your goals. Conversely, a strong community can help you discover purpose and meaning in your work.
The personal finance community has been instrumental in this blog’s growth. I am constantly inspired and encouraged by friends and peers.
Becoming part of a community involves forming tens or even hundreds of connections at once. This new, expansive network grants you access to various perspectives, stories, and skillsets. Leverage your network (in a positive way) to become better within your niche!
“How do I connect with others in a community?”
Offer your advice or services to other members of the community. Like I mentioned before, you get what you give!
In my experience, those who I help often return the favor. It’s human nature. The Golden Rule!
Do to others what you would have them do to you.
Final Thoughts on Networking
Networking doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be scammy! It’s a necessary process for forming relationships and building a strong community.
In the end, you are only as strong as your network. If no one were to read any of my posts, how could I possibly hope to reach any level of success? Luckily, I learned the power of networking early on and have this amazing Fly to FI community to support me!
If you’re an introvert, step out of your comfort zone and start to build a network. Send an email, attend an event, or participate in a community. No matter what you do, connecting with like-minded individuals is paramount for continued growth and progress.
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