Let’s play a word association game.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word, “networking?”
For us, it’s...
- Nervous sweat
- Too many drinks to take the edge off
- Someone, please get us outta here
Hear us out, though…
The reason we feel that way is because of the way networking is traditionally approached.
But here at Project Spaces, we present an alternate thesis:
“Stop networking. Start making friends.”
The premise is simple, and it can redefine the way you look at, build, treat, and engage with your professional network--and it starts with eliminating the word “networking” from your vocabulary and replacing it with “meeting new work friends.”
Here are some tips.
1. Ditch the Agenda
The most painful thing about traditional networking? Everyone’s got an agenda.
Networking is always purpose-driven. People go into “networking” settings wanting to get something out of it. To get something from someone.
Don’t do that.
If you come in with an agenda, you’ll wreak of desperation. And desperation is a stinky cologne.
Instead of trying to “network,” just focus on meeting cool people and building genuine connections with them.
People are naturally inclined to help people they like. So, just start there.
2. Be a Both Person and a Business Owner
We’re all professionals here.
But for the sake of this scenario, make sure to balance being both a person and a professional.
What do we mean by that?
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on business. But after all, people are like onions.
They stink? No.
They make you cry? No.
You leave them out in the sun and they start sprouting little white hairs? No.
They have layers!
It’s great to talk shop, but make sure to also get a feel for who people are outside their nine-to-fives. Be genuinely curious about their hobbies, interests, passions, and personal lives.
Don’t be afraid to build personal connections. Remember, it’s about making friends, not networking.
3. Put Yourself in the Right Places
When you think about networking, you probably envision plastic-wrapped nametags safety-pinned to shirts, probably in a conference centre, meeting room, or banquet hall.
But alas! We’re focused on making friends, not networking. So, you’ve gotta start thinking outside the box.
Stuffy networking events are the worst. Instead, try putting yourself in the right places to meet new people.
For instance, at Project Spaces, we’ve got a massive community of awesome people who share a common vision. And we host a ton of member events and happy hours so they can get to know each other in a non-forced, un-awkward, fun-focused way.
4. Two Ears, One Mouth
You know the type. The ones in social settings who’re never really listening, but just waiting for their turn to talk.
Or the ones who won’t let you get a word in edgewise.
Don’t be those people.
If you want to make friends, you need to listen as much as you talk--if not more so. But the key is to do it authentically and actively.
Approach your conversations with the attitude of wanting to learn rather than inform. Don’t multitask. Focus on what people are saying.
As your mom (or at least someone’s mom) used to say: you’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason!
5. Don’t Force It
If you want to make friends, you’ve gotta be ready to engage in opportunities to do so--but don’t try to force them to happen.
How do you do that?
Just do your best to stay engaged with people. Be open to conversation and do your best to look approachable. Remain active in seeking new ways to connect with others. Put yourself out there.
You never know where you might meet a new connection. The gym, the dog park, the nail salon, your shared office.
The possibilities are endless.
But remember: the key is to stop networking and to start making friends instead.
And here's the good news: Coworking spaces are uniquely positioned to help you make friends in the most authentic way possible.
Why? Because unlike your traditional office environment, nobody in a coworking space is competing for the same job, or trying to impress the same boss. Not to mention a shared passion for doing what you love, and working hard to make it happen.
It's fertile ground for true, honest friendships to form. And that's what it's all about.
Want to make dozens of new work friends overnight? Then get in touch today and come check out Project Spaces! We’re a big group of work friends and we’d love for you to join us.
Founder-friendly coworking in downtown Toronto for entrepreneurs and digital nomads. EST 2011. We create original workspaces, fill them with relentless entrepreneurs, and watch the magic happen. Learn more