Why 'Never Talk To Strangers' Is Bad Advice For Grads

This article was written by Teddy Burriss, a Social Networking Coach, author, public speaker, avid social media engager, and Certified Career Transition Coach, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. As children, your parents told you, “Never talk to strangers.” This may have been good advice when you were a child, however, as adults, this is bad advice. Related: 4 Essentials For Networking With Strangers On LinkedIn As you began your higher education journey and your entry into your first career, your fathers started to help you past this childhood advice. Often, your Dads would ask their business friends to talk with you, give you some advice, and even connect you with other strangers who could possibly help you. However, what many of your parents failed to do is to teach you how to grow your own networks. The rewards will be significant once you learn how to build broad, diverse, and overlapping networks around your family, career, business, and communities. Regardless of your degree, career aspirations, age, gender, or any other demographic, you can positively affect and enhance your life if you are willing to network properly. Here are three activities that you can use to help you build strong, diverse, and overlapping networks.

1. Meet Someone New Every Day

This does not mean you have to schedule networking meetings, coffee, lunch, or dinner with someone every day. Here are a few ideas that can help you meet someone new every day:
  • Say hello to the person behind you at the coffee shop
  • Sit in a different chair at a regular meeting
  • Share a table with a stranger in a busy café
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Call someone from one of your social networks whom you have never talked with
  • Walk into a new small business and meet the owners
  • Chat with a receptionist when visiting someone in an office building
  • As you walk into your group networking meetings, look for someone you have never talked with before. (Do not, I repeat, DO NOT walk up to your best buddy first.)
If you practice looking for and saying hello to someone new in every environment you are in, you’ll factorially increase your networks every year. These are just a few of an unlimited number of ways to start up a conversation with a someone new. You never know where a new conversation can lead you in your life. Strive for one every day.

2. Meet People Who Are Way Different Than You

It’s easier to get through life doing the same stuff and hanging out with the same people, day in and day out. However, it’s far more rewarding when you regularly experience something new in life. This includes meeting and talking with people who are not like you in any way. Some of your best ideas will come from:
  • Reading a different book
  • Perusing a magazine or blog you don’t normally read
  • Listening to a different political or religious perspective
  • Watching a weird movie
  • Going to dinner at an unusual restaurant
  • Taking a different route to a favorite vacation or weekend get away
  • Simply looking out a different window in your home or office
Different activities and conversations are how we open our eyes and minds to ideas and philosophies that we never would have considered or even known about. Many of these ideas or philosophies can positively impact our lives, relationships, and careers. Therefore, strive to meet people who are different than you. Strike up a conversation with someone from a different culture, society, industry, association, religion, country, or just from a different state or city. These people may be different than you, however, there is nothing wrong with different, as long as the difference is focused in a positive manner. Building a diverse network creates opportunities for you to discover these new and different ideas and philosophies.

3. Let Your Networks Overlap

There is no need to keep your personal, professional, and community networks segregated from each other. Let them overlap. This does not mean that you need to share all of your personal activities with your business network. Nor does it mean you should start talking about business with all of your community connections. What I want you to believe is that allowing appropriate and organic overlapping of your personal, professional, and community networks can create an even more diverse and powerful network. Until you let this happen, you’ll never discover who in your personal network can help you in your professional life. You’ll never discover that some of your professional connections can and actually want to participate in your community activities. Where relevant and possible, encourage and embrace this network overlap. You’ll be amazed at the value overlapping networks can provide you (and your networks). Start now building strong, broad, diverse, and overlapping networks. This will amp up your life. Meet and talk with a stranger every day. Your parents will understand.

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