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Make Someone’s Day With a Stranger

We are so defined by our work whether it’s a job title, volunteer role, parental role, or “in-between.” Yet just peek under that formality and you can find gems just below the surface from both people you know and strangers. To me, that’s the joy of networking, meeting someone new and discovering the person under the surface and their many interests and talents we may even share in common. Our relationship moves from a formal single-purpose one to a much more richer and welcoming relationship as the person becomes no longer a stranger but a valued connection. That’s why I find networking fun: how quickly can I discover the talents, interests or needs we have in common.

People believe networking needs to be done in a formal way with business cards in hard and elevator speeches ready. But it can happen anywhere, and when you open yourself to those experiences, you can make your day with a new friend, idea, or opportunity. Let me share a few different examples of how this happened to me.

Have you ever gone searching to purchase something online or from an ad and said to yourself “this is it!” but then been disappointed when you got there? This happened to me last week. I needed new cross-country ski shoes and pictured myself going off in the woods mushing for hours with a newer, warmer pair of shoes. I found an ad in Facebook Marketplace that was half the price of a retail pair. Eureka!, and the person was only a half hour from my house. Great, I could get them fast, make sure they fit, and be on my way in nearby trails. Good thing I went in person to do that – they were for the wrong cross country ski system! I could have left disappointed from a wasted trip. Instead I started briefly chatting with this stranger and discovered this was a fascinating person with many talents from physical therapy to entertaining to raising money for ALS. I didn’t get the shoes I needed to enjoy winter, but did meet someone who may be able to enhance other parts of my life through his many talents. I’m going to talk to him about an interview for my sports column about PT for athletes, look into hiring him as a former Ringling Bros. clown for my Scouts when we things open up again, and possibly discuss how he could help my aching shoulders and hip flexors through physical therapy. Just learning all of this about him made my day! If I only thought transactionally, I’d have missed a great opportunity. How many times do we do that in life, because we only think about the main purpose we are there?

Here’s another example. Do you have kids (or nephews, nieces, friends kids) who play sports? If so, you often watch their games and support them. Lots of downtime during those games, you frequently run into some of the same people. You never know what you might find out if you strike up a conversation. A new restaurant, a new idea, or even a new job – true story!

Here’s my best success and a great Valentine’s Day story. Early on in my business I was having a networking coffee and quickly assessed that the person I was meeting wasn’t going to be very helpful in my search for new clients. But he seemed like a very nice guy, went to my alma mater, and I could tell he wasn’t married. Neither was my sister. 25 years later they have been happily married. I am so happy that I was able to introduce my sister to her life partner, because I looked for other ways for our coffee to be helpful!

It’s time to dive below the surface and discover the hidden talents of others, to look for reasons to connect beyond your original goal when you meet someone new. It may just end up making your day, or his/hers. Or even make their life!

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