If You Want to Get Better at Networking, Stop Networking

This post is based on episode 3 of the Office Hours podcast. Want to get more actionable insights on how to take charge of your life and career? Listen to all of Season 1 here.

How do I find cool people? How do I make smart and interesting friends? How do I find a good mentor? How do I get business partners? How do I get better at networking?

These are all great things to want. Having valuable friendships, work relationships, and connections with like-minded people who have shared interests and can challenge you to be better is important.

But here’s the paradox: Wanting to get better at networking or trying to find friends decreases the odds of you actually finding them.

Stop looking for smart people. Stop searching for mentors. Stop looking for cool friends. Stop scouring conferences and networking events for opportunities to give everyone your business card. Instead, focus on these three things, and the people will come:

1. Do cool stuff

In your search for interesting friends and meaningful relationships, what qualities are you actually looking for? Are you looking at their IQ? Their grades? Their social status? Their job?

What you should usually be prioritizing are shared interests and people who can challenge you to be better at the things you want to be good at. The best way to find those people is to forget about the friendship component and just focus on engaging your interests. If you’re doing that, it becomes pretty difficult over time to not intersect with people who are interested in the same things.

Act on your passions. Start doing cool stuff. Start building things. Chase the things you’re interested in. Work your butt off wherever you’re currently at to create value for others.

The best way to be interesting is to be interested. To be exciting, be excited. To be engaging, be engaged. To be fascinating, be fascinated.

2. Work out loud

Don’t be shy about what your interests, passions, and abilities are. Share the stuff you’re doing with the world. Start blogging every day about the books you’re reading, the projects you’re working on, the skills you’re learning.

Pretty soon, the people who also like that kind of stuff will take notice and realize you’re the type of person they want to associate with.

You have to let your signal go out to the world and be heard. If you want to make friends and connections, you can’t hide. You have to have actual interests and interestingness under the surface for valuable relationships to form.

3. Focus on present, meaningful interactions

When you’re meeting people, instead of thinking about friendship or whether or not this is the type of person who you can trust to catch you if you close your eyes and fall backward, just focus on meaningful interactions with human beings wherever you are present.

Let conversations arise with your piano teacher, your barista, the guys you play basketball with, the person next to you on the bus, or your hairdresser. If you do this, most of the people who turn out to be your friends are people you would have never categorized as fitting your friend stereotype. They may not be the same demographic as you in any way.

You’ve probably crossed paths with the very types of people you’re looking for many times, but you’ll only recognize it if you’re already taking action on the things you’re interested in. Start building and doing cool stuff and share it with the world. Let your signal be heard and the people will find you.