This article is dedicated to the class of 2013. Congratulations! You guys made it through years of grueling schoolwork, inevitably awkward social realizations, and most of you (if not all of you) probably lost whatever adorable versions of innocence that you were born with by your junior year. You might be a little terrified to enter the real world or if you’re anything like me, you probably feel (misguidedly) more invincible than Superman in a world of no kryptonite. Either way, Congratulations!
Most people tell college grads to “Network! Network! Network!” And while that advice is somewhat useful, it can be confusing, tedious, and downright gross to anyone with a likable personality. “Networking” is blatantly self-serving and superficial so instead of hitting up every industry event to “network,” why don’t you simply try making friends?
The next time you’re at an industry event, instead of asking people what they do (and then in your head, asking how this person can help you), ask where they’re from and what they do in their spare time. Ask them where they live. Maybe they live in the neighborhood where YOU used to live, and maybe they like to go to that Mexican place around the corner that has those fusion enchiladas that you were initially skeptical of but now you’re obsessed. The objective is to find something in common with this person outside of work because that’s how you make friends.
Making friends is personal. And now, I have a little bit of genius insight for you (yes, I just called myself a genius – take a moment to hate, now let’s move forward). Business IS personal. Whoever tells you otherwise is heartless. I’m willing to bet my life that anyone who runs their own successful business has poured their heart and soul into their work. I watched my dad do it every day.
Making business personal and creating genuine friendships will be more fulfilling to your soul and your career than any form of “networking.”
Don’t believe me? The next time you go to a networking event, pick out two people. Focus your conversation on solely your career aspirations and your professional identity with one person, and focus on your personal life with the other person. After a week, follow up with both people and ask for some professional guidance. Don’t be intrusive. Think small. Then, tell us what happened in the comments section below! Or if you have any networking stories, I want to hear those too!