When I was younger, I tried to build my network by showing up at 6 PM to a happy hour where I would shake hands with people and have high-level introductory conversations. That brought me some benefit, but I realize now that this is really the wrong approach to networking.
I know a lot of people who don’t have valuable relationships, and that’s because they’re not providing value to others. Relationships are made on mutual value. My wife makes me a better person, and my goal is to make her the best version of herself, while we work together to help each other reach our shared family goes. It’s the same with my friends, we lift each other up, give advice, or just provide a nice break from the world. But a lot of relationships lack mutual value, and when you run around a networking event without bringing anything to the table, it’s hard to really build a network of mutual value.
If you’re struggling with this, you need to stop worrying about your network for a little bit. Go out and build something, do something, learn something, and let yourself become an expert at something. If you do that, your network will take care of itself, because people will start coming to you.
When I was a college kid, I had nothing to bring to the table, and my network reflected that. But then I started a business, gained some experience, and could add value to a conversation. Later on I made some money, started to focus on self-storage, and people started to see me as an expert in self-storage. When you’re an expert at something, people seek you out. People call me out of the blue with opportunities, and that’s when my network exploded. Now I offer self-storage consulting for $500/hour, and I meet people who want to do big deals together.
If you have no skill, that’s fine. You can still add value by offering to help out. But take time to focus on doing something, building something, and getting really good at it. Build a resume and let the rest take care of itself. You don’t build a network, you earn a network.
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