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Networking For Beginners

How do you make new friends at age 45? How do you network when you’re an introvert? Where do you meet new people, and how do you engage them? This article goes through what I’ve learned on the topic of networking for beginners, especially given that I’m not extroverted.

The key is to be helpful to others and have something in common enough that’s lasting.

Making New Friends

Think back to the last set of friends you met; how did you meet them?

I met a couple when being a digital nomad in Mexico and met another couple who happened to move next door to me.

Before that, my friends were made at work or at a rock climbing gym. Basically, places where we had things in common.

At 45, things are different. We are more polished, and we stand to lose more. It’s tougher breaking through the barriers of social displays.

The best way is to approach it like dating; strike up a simple and genuine conversation and gauge the other person’s interest. Next, see if the conversation continues with a little fuel. If so, exchange numbers.

Next, ask the person and see if they’d like to do something social like a coffee or go to a talk or check out a new event in town.

Overcoming Shyness

Some call it laziness, but I think it’s fear and shyness. Putting yourself out there is necessary to see if the other party is interested.

Good news, damn near everyone is interested in making new friends. But everyone is a bit guarded, especially in the US.

How to Signal You Are Normal

1. You are in a Relationship

If you are in a relationship, chances are it’ll be easier to do some double dates.

It also often indicates that you are somewhat reliable and stable. Well, not really true, but that’s how it’s perceived.

2. You Have Other Friends

When hanging out with new friends for the first time, it might be nice to let the person know that you will be somewhere with your friends and see if they’d like to join.

Just mentioning that you have your own friends might be enough.

3. You Have a Job

Especially when you have odd hours, like me, it’s important to let people know that you are employed when trying to make new friends.

If you propose to hang out with someone at 12 on a Wednesday, it’s good for them to know that you have a job, are making your own money, etc.

4. You are Predictable

Anger, crazy laughing, nervous twitches, and deep eye contact is best reserved for the insane asylum; it rarely goes off well when trying to network.

5. You Aren’t Creepy

When it comes to the opposite sex, things get dicey quickly. It takes practice not to treat the opposite sex as a potential date.

When possible, imagine them as gender-neutral. When learning to network, you don’t want to leave 50% of potential new friends aside.

Reaching out to New Friends

My girlfriend is much better at this, but I’ve learned to contact friends regularly by text or email. Just a quick message saying hi or letting them know that there is a local event I’ll be going to.

There is no pressure; you aren’t telling them to meet you there, you’re just announcing what you’re up to and, of course, if they’d like to come, to text you.

This is good practice to do with old friends, too. Maybe there are people you haven’t pinged in a long time; reach out to them, and that’s a great way to build your network.

Help Others

A very effective method of making friends is to step in and help. Don’t miss an opportunity to do it, no matter what your brain tells you.

You might hold the door open for someone who has 20 bags in their hands coming down the stairs. Or someone needs help loading something in their car.

Maybe you’ll talk with someone, and they tell you that they are dealing with a roofing issue. Connect them to a good roofer, you know.

Friends of Friends as a Network

I’m not much of a partygoer, but I get invited to several events thanks to my girlfriend. It’s much less anxiety-inducing if you develop a genuine interest in how people live their lives.

Ask questions. When at a new event, avoid talking too much about yourself and don’t need to talk about something you’re uncomfortable revealing.

Instead, focus on the person and what they like to do. Inquire about their interests outside of work and what their day-to-day is like. It makes for a fun conversation.

Social Events

My top social events are gardening meetups or farmer’s markets. I’ve tried tennis and hiking meetups, which are also interesting, but the yield was low for me.

I like rock climbing because the people are down to earth and generally social. Contrast that with a weight lifting gym – not so much.

Entrepreneurs go to the chamber of commerce meetings. Physicians interested in health informatics go to IT conferences.

Taking Courses

A few of my friends went back for Integrative Medicine or Functional Medicine fellowships. They made quite a few friends.

Community colleges are also good places to meet some interesting people, though less so in the medical field.

Physicians tend to take ultrasound courses, aesthetic courses, nutrition and cooking courses, and attend interesting CME excursions like skiing or surfing.

Making Friends at 45

I didn’t think it’d be this hard, but my shyness and wrangling my schedule are hindrances to making new friends.

Once the friendship is made, it’s a great source of growth. And you feel more secure and safe in the world knowing you have others to bounce ideas off of.

A good way to keep the young friendship alive and fuel it is to ask for favors and do favors like mentioned above.

When you ask someone for a favor, they are more vested in the relationship. And when you offer them a favor later on, it solidifies the new friendship.

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