Make Friends, Not Contacts: Growing Your Network to Get More Opportunities

***Disclaimer! If you’re a “I’m not here to make friends!” uber competitive cutthroat butthole that doesn’t want anyone else but themselves to succeed, please leave this page!***

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to just be a ding dang gosh darn good person when networking. Think of the universal qualities of a “good person” for a moment: gives to others, is open and vulnerable as often as possible, challenges others when needed, creates a safe space for others to be themselves, allows others to shine by lifting them up and cheering them on. All of these remarkable qualities of a good person are what you should be utilizing when interacting with any professional contacts. Genuinely caring about others is how you get more opportunities rooted in care and attention to what’s most fulfilling to you!

Making friends is the best way to give others a positive emotional response when they think of you. Being a good person helps them to want to work with you someday (AKA the ideal place you want to be). Leaving every interaction positive and encouraging helps that person to think of you in a shining light. As that person moves, changes jobs, starts companies, you’ll always be in the back of their mind as someone they’d like to collaborate or work with. How cool!

Nowadays you’ve probably noticed that it’s nearly impossible to get a job by blindly applying or submitting a form. You absolutely have to know someone at the company in order to get the dang job! It sucks, but this is where we are. Personal vouches and recommendations go a heck of a long way when teams are hiring for open positions and you definitely want to be the person they’re recommending. How do you do this? MAKE MORE FRIENDS, BABY!

Remember that not every friendship will return a new job or opportunity and that’s okay! I call this a ☠️LONG CON☠️ in my video, because technically you’re befriending people and being nice to them hoping (in the far back of your brain) that maybe someday it’ll lead to something lucrative for you! But know that most of the time it’ll take a few months or years for you to get jobs or career opportunities from these people. It’s a relationship you have to nurture and oftentimes it fizzles out and doesn’t return a major reward. But, that’s okay because you’re a good person, riiiiiiiiight?

The only way to do this is by meeting as many people as you possibly can online and off. Here’s a quick guide to tips for creating friendly, meaningful, opportunity-rich relationships online and off:

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Be a kind, supportive voice in your industry!

Engage in friendly or challenging conversations by listening to others and being curious about your own viewpoint. The internet especially can be a scary, emotionally charged, and often performative place. Do your part to not let your emotions take over. If you remain curious and flexible, it can be quite fun!


Be vulnerable!

Show your process and struggles so they understand that you’re a relatable human who is going through things just like them. If you seem perfect and totally always busy and succeeding, they’ll think you’re too busy for new opportunities or too fancy to even associate with them. And you aren’t, honey.


Ask for help, sparingly!

When it comes time for you to need guidance, jobs, or any kind of help from your community, ask for it! You’ll be shocked how many people rally to help you because you’ve been doing the same for them. Everyone wants to help a good person!


Take the time to listen to others!

When you meet someone new, take the time to listen to them about what their interests are. What is their current job? What would they consider ideal for a dream job? What kind of work are they working toward that would be most exciting for them? Take that information in, because chances are someone will ask you to do something in the future that doesn’t align with your interests, but heck it might align with that awesome woman, Kira, you met in Rochester that one time. Recommend Kira for that job, she’ll be so thrilled!


Educate others on what makes you amazing!

When you meet new friends, tell them exactly what kind of work you love to do, what your ideal career, job, or project would be, and what makes your work super special. This allows them to return the favor by referring you to opportunities that are perfectly inline with your specific interests!


Get out there as much as possible!

Every single conference I’ve ever been to has generated at least one client because I make a handful of new friends at each event I attend! Actually get out of your comfort zone and talk about real things with real people. Stop talking about the weather and just ask them if they’ve ever pooped with a backpack on, it works for me every time.


Don’t be curatorial!

Try your hardest to not curate your social media to be a version of yourself that doesn’t exist! The internet can see right through that crap now and we can spot someone who isn’t being real from a mile away. Write a list of your unique qualities and skillset that makes you an amazing, refreshing catch and showcase those things as often as possible.


Show your real self as much as possible!

The more you show your unique personality and skillset, the more opportunities you’ll get! The best part? These opportunities will be more fulfilling because they’re rooted in genuine excitement for who you are and what makes you special. Alonzo will want to work with you because he likes you and wants to spend time with you. And you’ll love working with someone who actually likes you for the weirdo you really are.


Use social media as a way to try new things!

You can use social media as a way to start something new! If you’re interested in shifting directions, trying a new skill, or moving into a new space—Instagram or Twitter is a great way for you to make something happen for just yourself, post about it, and generate excitement. I do this all the time! If I’m interested in offering a new service. I’ll do a just-for-me project and show it on Instagram. It allows potential clients or hirers to see what I’m capable of and understand that I have that skill.


Actually interact with people on the internet!

Respond to the DM’s, engage in conversations. Remember that each person on the internet is a real (most of the time!), human with real emotions, sadness, struggles, joy, etc. It’s easy to brush people off, but it’s important to them that you engage and it helps you to remain a likable, good person!


Use social media as a way to cheer others on!

You can repost, retweet and share the work of others so why the heck not? Showing your support of other artists, makers, or entrepreneurs is a great way to be a good person and it also helps you to get on the radar of those inspiring people! Use Twitter to retweet others when they’re in need. If someone’s looking for help or new opportunities/jobs, a simple act of retweeting can make a major impact on their success. And heck, maybe they’ll return the favor to you someday.

You got this. Now, let’s be friends!

 
Meg Lewis