Studies say that over 70 percent of people have found their jobs through networking. And you can safely bet that successful entrepreneurs didn't get to the top by living in a bubble.
Now more than ever, networking is a necessity to stay ahead in business.
So how do you pull it off?
It doesn't involve thousands of LinkedIn requests or throwing your business card at everyone you meet. The answer is simple: Truly effective networking involves being your authentic, fabulous self, and becoming your own best cheerleader.
Even if you hate networking, there are some painless and proven ways to forge connections and radically improve your success.
I won't keep you waiting. Here are some simple ways to connect with successful people:
Arrive early to events
If the thought of walking into an enormous crowd and seamlessly blending into a group makes you nervous, this tip should be filled in the "so simple it's brilliant" cabinet.
Wendy Gelberg, author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career, says this works so well because "There are just a few random people who have shown up early, and they're delighted to have someone to talk to. Then you become part of the group."
Spill out your personal details
When you're out and about networking, it goes a lot easier when you feel like you're talking to a friend, or if there's a connection beyond a mutual business exchange.
That's why networking expert Achim Nowak, author of Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within, recommends revealing your personal life to others. Nope, you don't have to (and shouldn't) reveal details about your last date, but you can take steps to let some details lose to make the connection flourish.
He recommends sprinkling in some personality when you're asked the standard questions. For instance, when asked, "Where are you from?" don't be afraid to follow up with "San Francisco, and I have to go to a high school reunion there next month; I'm a little nervous."
Amy Cuddy, a Harvard psychologist, author, and TED Talk star, gave advice on how to become a more confident networker through simple tweaks to your body language. Stand up tall, have a firm handshake, and look individuals in the eye (but don't overdo it).
Even if you're feeling a little jittery, make a concerted effort to appear like you're calm and collected. This is a scientifically proven way to improve your confidence and make others trust you, so it will snowball once you start.
Remember--it's a two-way street
Dave Liniger once brilliantly said, "You can't succeed coming to the potluck with only a fork."
A common mistake that most people make is approaching networking as a key driver of sales. Sure, the ultimate goal of networking is to connect with people who may be able to help you reach a particular goal. Networking, however, always starts with giving.
Focus on providing, and this will ensure that you establish real connections. If you want to build strong bonds, you'll need to invest in relationships--so give without expecting much back in return at first.
Susan Solovic, an award-winning entrepreneur and keynote speaker, says, "Remember, people do business with people they know, like, and trust."
Being honest and being your true self is the best way to do that. Remember again, though, to keep it a two-way street--a mutual relationship. TV host Celeste Headlee gave a powerful TED Talk titled "10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation" in which she says that it all "boils down to the same concept, and it is this one: Be interested in other people."
Find out their treasures
Dale Carnegie, author of the networking staple How to Win Friends and Influence People, said that the easy way to anyone's heart is to talk to the about what they "treasure most."
Is there a subject that makes your eyes light up, and that you could talk about for hours? Find that with someone else, and you'll go far together.
An easy way to start is to ask, "What made you get into your field?" instead of the standard "What do you do?" question. Beyond that, try to avoid the standard snooze questions and instead ask about things that truly make people tick.
Act like you want to talk
When we're alone at an event, our default reaction is often to keep our eyes glued to our iPhones or to stuff our faces with snacks.
The Wall Street Journal says this is the completely wrong way to go about it. They say people "who stand in a corner, hunched over their cell phone or a plate of food, are sending a negative signal."
So if there's someone you want to meet at a party, act like you're ready to meet them before they even walk into the room. That way, they'll probably gravitate to you before you even make an introduction. Trust me, putting away Pokémon Go for a minute will be worth it.
Don't forget the thank you
Harvard Law School says the end of a business meeting with someone is just the beginning if you want to forge a long-lasting relationship (makes sense).
Their brilliant solution to stay in touch (while generating kindness) is to follow up with a handwritten thank you note. Beyond that, they also recommend keeping the connection updated on anything they helped you with--like a job search--while thanking them again.
It's simple: Follow the golden rule by treating a connection the way you'd want to be treated. It's not only a good practice, but it will help you forge longer-lasting connections.
Do you have any networking tips? I want to hear them!