How Going Out To Lunch Made Me Rich

**Like most people starting out in their careers, I was making chump change while trying to pay for school and figuring out what to do with my life. To be honest, I ended up wasting most of my money on overpriced (andhorrible) food at school instead of accepting near-daily invitations to head out to lunch with a group of people from work. (My excuse was that I was saving money by avoiding real restaurants and that somehow hanging out with other college students would get me ahead in life – fast. What a joke.)

To make things worse, I was coming from an entrepreneurial family (seriously, every Indian family owns at least one business) and working for “The Man” wasn’t something I couldn’t handle for much longer.

I’m not sure what changed my mind, but I decided to accept one of the invitations to head out to lunch with the office. Boy, I wish I’d made that choice way earlier. I instantly realized a few things:

  • **It’s cheap. **Going out to lunch with the office wasn’t as expensive as I thought. In fact, the food was cheaper and tasted better.
  • **You’ll make new friends. **I immediately started associating with people that I never interacted with while I was at the office. Expanding your circle within the workplace is never a bad idea.
  • **Find out who’s who. **A casual environment tends to make people loosen up. It was easy to figure out who was committed to the company and who the chronic complainers were. (Tip: Be sure to keep your distance from the complainers when you get back to work – they’ll talk your ear off.)
  • *Get close to the movers and shakers. **Thanks to that casual environment, you’ll also form a rapport with your colleagues. And if one of your peers gets promoted, guess who she’s most likely to recommend when other promotions come available? Yep, you got it – her favorite lunch buddies. It really is all about *who you know!
  • **You’ll expand your circle. **Lunch was a cost-effective way of networking. Everyone wants to eat around the same time so we were surrounded by other local professionals.
  • **Know where you stand. **The fact that I was actually invited to lunch was a good sign. (If you’re not getting the invitations yet, take a look in the mirror and make sure you’re sending the right messages. My series on rethinking your personal brand will help you get started.)

Going out to lunch can not only be fun, but a valuable career tool – you never know who you’ll meet. I met two of my mentors and future business partners at one of these office lunches – that was the best $8 I could have spent. (Tip: Attend or Host a Lunch 2.0 event in your area – it’s a great way to meet even more people.)