I entered the workforce at a young age, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Ready to prove my worth, I was willing to put in the hours. All my life, I had been taught that working hard was the way to success. What I learned (years later than I would have liked) is that success is better determined by how many genuine connections we make. When you learn to connect, doors open that you didn’t know were possible.
I tried the “work hard” method
I put in some solid years of manual labor, working the shipping docks of a distribution center. The nights were long, and the pay was better than most in the area, but I left every shift feeling like someone kicked my ass up and down the dock. Going back to work the next day was an internal war of willpower. Thankfully, I eventually got fired.
Let’s see what the “smart way” looks like
The “work hard” method wasn’t working out so well for me, but my bills weren’t going to disappear. When I fixated on base wages, the higher-paying jobs never seemed to balance with my personal needs. I’d already done the whole “working myself to death and going through life like a zombie” thing. No thanks to doing that ever again. I needed to find something that checked off all my boxes. Fewer hours, more flexibility, human connection…those kinds of things. I realized the status quo didn’t work for me.
Luckily, I got my first shot in the service industry. The pay was even lower than I thought legal, but the earning potential exceeded expectations. I had no idea something that paid $2.13 per hour could end up translating to easily over $30 per hour.
As someone who had come from working their ass off for less than half of that, I was undeniably fucking stoked. The service industry changed the way I viewed building relationships. It redefined what a job meant for me.
Time to work on the chops
I realized immediately I was going to need to learn some serious hospitality skills to make some money at this. The bar I worked at wasn’t known for its guest service skills. There were no real service standards, so I had to figure it out as I went. Some things I picked up pretty quickly were:
- Giving quality service was the only way to make money
- Carry a pen and paper even if you think you don’t need it
- You get out what you put in
- When you learn to connect, people take note
- You’ve got to know what they need before they do
More importantly, I realized the heart of it all centered around whether or not I could make a connection with my guests or not. I tell any new hires these days that they’ve got to think about it like speed dating. You’ve got this limited amount of time to convince a random stranger to like you enough to want to give you their money.
I teach new hires to repeat their name at least three times throughout the experience, so the guest can connect them with a person instead of a waiter. Have a conversation with them like you are already best friends. Look at what they’re wearing and see if there are any connections you can make based on style, sports teams, geographical cues. Essentially, just put some effort into making a connection and treat them as a new friend.
These ideas are relevant beyond the service industry
If the first three waves were brand as object, idea, and experience, the next wave will be brand as relationship.?—?Mark Bonchek and Cara France
Making connections is crucial in all aspects of life. Whether in business, in personal relationships, or in everyday communication, our ability to make connections with others puts us at an advantage.
In their article, “Build Your Brand as a Relationship,” Mark Boncheck and Cara France discuss the evolution of our perception toward brands. Businesses today must know everything they do shows the world something about their brand. Without a brand that promotes a relationship, you find yourself in an old model of business. Relationships and connections have become the driving force behind the most prominent brands of today, like Lyft, Airbnb, and Uber.
Kit Pang discusses the power of connections in business and career in his article, “The Softer Side: Why Making Personal Connections is Important for your Business and Career.” From the power of physical connection to the natural sharing of ideas, relationships provide us with the tools needed to succeed.
Possibly more important than success in business and personal relationships, connection with others has proven to promote longer life. Nurturing your connections and having people you can truly depend on was the key to a longer life in the now-famous Harvard study tracking over 250 participants for 80 years.
Connecting is key
I learned the value of making connections while waiting tables and these skills have helped me nurture the relationships in my life. I’ve gotten job offers, promotions, and lifelong friendships through my ability to make connections with others. Our ability to connect doesn’t only determine how successful we will be; it determines how happy we will be. So, take the time to dig a little deeper, find something relatable, and connect with the people around you. It could lead you to the next level in your life.
Previously published on Gofindyourhappy.net.
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