Every single minute of your life is an interview.

Whether you realize it or not, you are always “on.” People are reading you, sensing you, feeling you. And, based on how you make them feel, they will either lean in or back away. It’s human nature.

We are constantly being reminded of the importance of networking. Making connections and building relationships is the single most important thing we can do to keep our careers healthy and vibrant. It’s who we know! And, it’s how we show up that matters.

Even very casual contacts can be quite powerful in terms of linking us to new ideas and opportunities. As we expand our circles and meet new people we learn about different information, resources, and companies.

We all need a keen awareness of being “on” before we step out the door. Even a trip to the mailbox and a chance encounter with a neighbor offers the possibility of meaningful connection that could lead to an interesting opportunity.

Success can seem like sheer coincidence and happenstance. In reality, people who understand that they are always “on” are more likely to turn seemingly random encounters into meaningful connections. The goal is to continually grow our circles and then work to take key relationships deeper.

To hone your sense of self-awareness, consider how you present yourself in different settings and situations. Are you showing up in the best ways possible? Do people tend to lean in or back away? Are you someone that others would feel comfortable recommending to a hiring manager or referring as a business resource?

I recently inquired about a training program offered by a local entrepreneur. By the time I got off the phone, I no longer wanted to enroll. Rather than engaging me about her unique offerings, the business owner spent most of the call complaining about how hard it has been to make a decent living in this town.

I backed away. I decided to spend my money with a different provider. She not only lost out on my registration but on referrals I may have made. I doubt she realizes that her negativity is what turned me off.

What about authenticity? Are we supposed to pretend that we are “doing great” when we are depressed or down to our last dime? Being “on” is not about faking it. Meaningful connections can only form when we are genuine and real.

I am not advocating that people stuff their feelings but there is a time and a place to share our deeper fears and concerns. If you are a trying to build a private practice or launch a business, hire a coach or create a support network of trusted colleagues to help you through times of discouragement. If you are a job seeker, process setbacks and frustrations in the safety of a counseling setting or with close family members – not with a recruiter or at a networking event. If you are not ready to be “on,” then stay home.

Successful people know how and when to be vulnerable. They reveal mistakes and share challenges in a way that builds bridges rather than burns them. It is generally considered unattractive to speak negatively or blame outside forces such as a horrible boss, our age, or the state of the union for our situations.

For all these reasons and more, I truly believe that every single minute of our lives is an interview. Like it or not, we are always “on.” Set an intention to show up in the best way possible. You just might be the perfectly placed stepping-stone in someone else’s career journey. And, the very next person you meet could be the best thing that ever happened to you!