It's pretty common knowledge that networking is the way of the world now. It's not always about what you know, but it definitely is about who you know. This is how collaborations are made. This is how business works now. Networking can definitely be scary, but I completely believe it's necessary to make friends in your industry and industries adjacent. A few years ago I heard a photographer say, "The one with the most relationships wins." I have never forgotten those words.
That said, I also believe it's entirely necessary to have friends that are way out of your industry - friends who have no idea what it is you even do - friends that even with explanation, still seem puzzled as to what your job entails. In my case, friends who have no idea what Instagram is or friends that believe that you must have an art degree to be an artist or that look completely quizzical when I say I'm a blogger. These are good friends.
Many of my friends that I spend time with in real life also have busy lives and busy careers. We occasionally talk about things that have to do with work, but mostly when we're together, we just want to laugh or talk about our kids or drink wine and tell funny stories. This helps me in my business. It gets me outside of my head and I promise it will take you outside of your head too. We get so caught up in networking events and making relationships in Facebook groups and with other people on social media (all completely worthy and necessary), but sometimes when your head is all work all the time, it can be hard to remember to foster those relationships outside of business.
> GIVES YOU PERSPECTIVE
Sometimes when you are working all the time, especially as an independent business owner, you feel like you are the center of the world. But - news flash! - you aren't. And having friends who don't want to talk about your business all day will make you understand that. They will humble you and make you aware of the world around you. This will be good for your business. You will see how your business affects other people and how you can use your business for good.
> GIVES YOU A BRAIN BREAK
This one is pretty obvious, but pertinent. You need a break. Give yourself one to not focus on business, to focus instead on just having fun and thinking about all the other things in your life. There are plenty.
> INTRODUCES YOU TO OTHER OPINIONS
Often times you won't talk about business with your non-business friends, but inevitably someone will ask "So... how's work?" And you will need to answer that question eloquently. When you do, hopefully your friends will have something to say on the matter. Even if you don't talk business all the time, hopefully your friends will care enough to listen to you and to care about the work that you do, if you give them the same courtesy. They will have opinions and perspectives that you didn't have already.
It will inspire you to work harder and work smarter. When you enjoy spending time with your friends, you will want to spend more time with them. The only way to do this is to manage your time wisely. Your friends will inspire you to do that. If you work in any type of creative field, being out with people in the real world will inspire you in ways you never imagined. Your mind will be flowing with new ideas by the time you get back to your desk.
> FEELING OF NORMALCY
This last one is the most important. When you spend a lot of time working toward major goals, especially on your computer, you will feel a need to be normal, to be a part of the world outside of you. Your friends who also have jobs and kids and responsibilities will make you feel normal. When you haven't done your laundry in 2 weeks and your friends haven't either, you will feel normal. When you haven't showered in 3 days and your friends haven't either, you will feel normal. When you play dice games and drink wine from a box around a bonfire, you will feel normal.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS
Now maybe you're thinking that making friends is hard for you or you're a total introvert or you just don't like people in real life all that much. For a very long time, I felt that making friends was impossible. Making friends as an adult is a bit more tricky. There are two very key things you must do to make these types of friends.
> GET OUT THERE
We don't generally make friends sitting on our couch. Take some time to think about the kind of people you'd like to be friends with to generate some ideas of where you might go to make them. Go to cool places, lady! Volunteer. Go to the playground without your phone (but only if you have kids). Try a new activity like Pilates or take a painting workshop. The more situations you put yourself in to make friends, the more likely it is that you will.
> TAKE INITIATIVE
But you can't just stop there. You have to talk to people, girlfriend. Sometimes 'hi' is all it takes. Make it a goal right now today, to make one new friend this month. Then you've got to be a good friend - send them kind or funny messages, invite them to go places with you, remember their birthday. Remember kindergarten rules like "treat people the way you want to be treated." Pay attention to their cues. Just be nice!
What do you say? Are you ready to go out and make a new friend this month? Comment below with your biggest struggle when it comes to networking and making new friends.