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Personal Development

How to Network the Right Way

6 Minute Read

So, you’ve realized you’re not in your “sweet spot” or the point where your greatest talent and your greatest passion intersect. You dread going to work, feel bored or unfulfilled, and miss that spark of excitement. Sound familiar? Most of us have been there until we make up our minds that something must change. And once you’ve made that decision, it’s time to start exploring your options! If you’re like millions of people in corporate America, exploring your options boils down to one thing: networking.

What Is Networking?

Chances are, you’ve heard the term one too many times in your career. It’s been used so often in so many different contexts, it may seem to have lost its significance at this point. Let’s look at the simple definition: Networking means interacting with people to exchange information or services, specifically with the purpose of forming business relationships.

Relationships. Isn’t it funny how that part of the definition seems to be missing from most networking events?

Why Networking Doesn’t Work

Here’s a shocking but honest thought for you: Never attend another networking event in your life. It’s a complete waste of time.


Everyone has their own agenda, whether it’s to find a new client, get an interview, promote a business, or close a deal. Few—if any—people are there to find mutually beneficial relationships. Instead, they’re looking out for themselves.

To make matters worse, networking events are nothing but organized chaos. You usually don’t know anybody there, so you speed-talk to find just one person to give you a lead. You end up with surface-level conversations and weak, meaningless connections.

Think about the last time you attended one of these events. I bet you came across a networking event pro—or who I call “The Scanner.” This person launches into a conversation with enthusiastic interest, but the instant they decide you can’t help them, they scan the crowd for another victim who can better serve them. No one wants to meet this person—and no one wants to be them either.

How to Network the Right Way: The Proximity Principle

Instead of desperately trying to find someone who can do something for you or risk getting trampled by colleagues attempting to scale the career ladder at lightning speed, focus on making connections. Connecting is all about taking the time to create new relationships and strengthen existing ones. The only way to make that happen is to consistently create genuine conversations that make a positive impact on both people involved.

So, rather than waste your time and energy at another networking event, try something I call the proximity principle. Here’s the basic concept: In order to do what you want to do, you have to be around the people who are doing it or you have to be in the places it’s happening. If you want to be a filmmaker, position yourself around people who are making films. If you want to be in radio, meet people who are successfully working in radio and immerse yourself in those environments. Watch, listen, learn, ask questions, and show enthusiasm. Not only will you meet more people than you would through traditional networking, you’ll meet the right people.

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Start using the proximity principle by asking yourself these simple questions: Where do I need to be? Who do I need to be around so I can do what I want to do? Once you have the answers, take action to meet those people and put yourself in those places, all while demonstrating how passionate and hardworking you are. It’s a surefire way to make powerful and lasting connections.

Maybe that means volunteering to take notes in the meetings you want to run eventually. Perhaps it’s filling a need at the company you want to work for. Or maybe it’s helping out behind the scenes instead of being in the spotlight. There’s so much value in simply saying, “I don’t want anything. I just want to learn.”

Why Resumes Are Worthless Without a Relationship

We’ve all heard those stories about some guy who tossed his resume onto a table at a networking event and ended up landing his dream job. But scenarios like that hardly ever pan out.

You could hand over your resume to a stranger who makes three minutes of predictable small talk, smiles, and then promises he’ll “take a look at it.” But instead, what if you actually made a genuine connection with that person? Wouldn’t they be far more likely to care about your resume and want to know more about who you are? I know I would!

These connections don’t necessarily need to be close friendships. In fact, you may have heard that people often get a job through acquaintances rather than friends. Acquaintance is just another word for ally. You wouldn’t vent to or confide in an ally, but there’s a meaningful relationship between allies just the same. And you can’t build relationships on surface-level conversations.

So how do you establish these acquaintance relationships? Go back to the proximity principle. Be around people who are doing what you want to do. You could even ask to take someone to lunch or coffee (yes, that means you’re buying) and be clear about why you asked them. Remain humble, take the focus off yourself, and look for ways you can provide value to them.

Soon, you’ll develop a web of connections—a network, if you will—that’s organic rather than forced. Sure, it takes some intentional effort, but you’ll create real relationships with people who’ve seen you in your element and know you’re reliable. What’s the next step? Start handing over your resume to those important acquaintances you’ve gathered.

Put Those Relationships to Work With a Resume That Wows

It would be a shame to spend all that time and energy making solid connections only to hand your new allies a sloppy resume. Prepare for that moment by making sure your resume is in its best and most attention-grabbing state. It should be concise and easy to read, with information about your most relevant relationships at the top of the page.

You can create a resume that will get you noticed with my free Resume Guide. You’ll learn five practical tips for reworking your resume so you can land that golden opportunity.

About Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman is host of The Ken Coleman Show and the top-rated EntreLeadership Podcast, and author of One Question: Life-Changing Answers from Today’s Leading Voices. An acclaimed interviewer and broadcaster, Coleman equips, encourages, and entertains listeners through thought-provoking interviews, helping them grow their businesses, pursue their passions, and move toward a fulfilled purpose.

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