Never Go to Another Networking Event
Traditional networking events are a great place to start building connections and meeting new people. But not everyone is a fan. Maybe you don’t enjoy going to them. Maybe they don’t fit into your schedule. Maybe they’re simply not in your budget.
But there are many ways you can become a rock-star networker without ever setting foot in a traditional “business networking” event. Here are some tips:
- Volunteer. Select a cause that’s meaningful to you and start giving back. You can volunteer for events, sit on a board, help with fundraising or offer other expertise that would be helpful. For networking purposes, it’s best to focus on one or two causes rather than a number of causes. That way, your contribution to the non profit and your ability to build relationships will have more impact.
- Nurture a hobby or interest by joining a group. You can join a group that spans anything from needlepoint to a tennis league to bingo. Finding groups or clubs where people share a common interest is a great way to meet people you want to get to know better. Sometimes finding people with common interests is tough when you are at a networking event with 100 people. But if you join a tennis league for example, you already know everyone participating has that in common with you. There are also wonderful groups you can join where people volunteer together, if you are interested in spending your time getting to know people who are focused on giving back on a regular basis.
- Join a church or synagogue (or other place of worship). If your faith is important to you, keep in mind there are many opportunities to get to know people by getting more involved in your place of worship. There are usually mentoring opportunities, things like bible study, sisterhood, opportunities to plan events, and more. A lot of religious institutions even have activities or events for those going through a divorce, singles events, senior activities and events for families with young children. Religious institutions bring together people from all walks of life and every career field. If you have a career in something like real estate or financial planning you can get to know many people who could be potential clients or referral sources over time as well.
- Make an effort to network with people you see regularly. Most of us have places we go for regular services like a barber shop or nail salon. These service providers come in contact with all sorts of people during their workday. If you are in transition, tell them you are looking for a position in customer service for example. One of their best clients might be hiring, you never know. Along the same lines if you are a parent, getting involved in your PTA is a great way to network. Or if your children are involved in regular activities like little league, start spending your time at practices and games getting to know the parents and what they do in their professional lives to see how you might be able to help each other. You are stuck there anyway! You can certainly make the most of your time.
- Up your online game. There are plenty of great online networking groups you can take advantage of from the comfort of your home. You can connect with people based on geography, being alumni of the same institution, being a mom or a parent, certain career fields, being part of the same organization and more. Make a point of being active in these groups. It is something you can do on your own time. For example, I am part of a group called “bizzy mamas.” While they have in-person events, they also have a very active daily online presence where people really get to know each other. They have one night a week where there is an online “networking night” at 9 PM so members can introduce themselves and their businesses after the kids go to bed. This is just one local example but there are many both on LinkedIn and Facebook. If you find yourself with more free time, make a point of scheduling a few in person meet-ups with people you have connected with in one of these online forums. Particularly for those that truly dislike or are uncomfortable at larger and more traditional networking events you can still build up your network very easily in this manner.
A lot of businesses have more “down time” in the summer so there is no time like the present to try some of these techniques to start getting more connected and more involved. Happy Networking!
Jennifer Lynn Robinson is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. She conducts keynotes, workshops and seminars assisting companies, non-profits, groups and conferences to help ensure your networking is working for you. You can connect with her at on Twitter, at purposefulnetworking.com or Jennifer@purposefulnetworking.com.