Some people love meeting new people, rushing gleefully to each networking event with bells on. For most of us, it can be a painful proposition. Here are some ways to make it more fun and productive at the same time.
The point of networking, after all, is simply to meet more people and have them meet you. A little in-person contact goes a long way toward establishing yourself in the community as a legitimate presence, and someone who is pleasant, qualified and trustworthy. It can be done in a variety of ways, and not just for events that are labeled with the dreaded “networking” word. With that in mind, here are some ways to grow your contact list with a minimum of suffering, and possibility, some enjoyment.
- Try something new. We all have a tendency to fall into ruts from time to time. Now is a great time to broaden your horizons just a bit with a class, club or sport you’ve always been interested in exploring but never gotten around to actually pursuing. Taste some wine! Join a kickball league or book club. Attend an art museum’s lecture and discussion series. Attend a local group of people who also love astronomy or learn to tango so you’ll be ready for that trip to Argentina you’ve fantasized about. Try out for a play in the community theater or sign up for a class on home-brewing. The best options are things that interest you, at least enough to learn more, and situations that lend themselves to conversation. If there are other people there, it totally counts as networking!
- Leverage your local area. You should put your body near the bodies of movers and shakers in your industry. Do the business owners in your city cluster at a particular bar or restaurant? Probably. If you’re not sure, ask Google (or a few bartenders). Go there with a friend or spouse and hang out until you meet someone to talk to. Play darts, sing karaoke and dance if you’re inclined. You belong there as much as the other patrons. You might overhear interesting professional tips or exciting secrets while you’re there, too.
- Do something good. Becoming a volunteer for a cause you care about is a wonderful way to meet people. It can be industry-related, like using your skills for the volunteer tax assistance program in your area or teaching financial literacy to local high school students. It can also be something you support in a totally un-work-related way, like animal shelters, battered women’s facilities or community arts programs. There are a million ways to help someone, and you’ll be adding the force of karma to your networking efforts. Who knows? Your ideal client may be the woman you meet while reading to patients at the children’s hospital.
- Bring it home again. Many people dread college or high school reunions even more than networking, and avoid alumni events, but this is shortsighted. Most of those people have forgotten your youthful awkwardness (if they ever noticed it, focused as they were on their own) and some may very well be in a position to do you some networking good. You might be surprised to find you’ll have a good time reconnecting with those old friends and frenemies if you let yourself. You might also gain valuable professional contacts you never suspected of amounting to anything.
Networking: it’s just talking to people. You can do that, and if you do it through any of these methods you’ll have a very good chance of enjoying yourself too. Try some of these for the good deeds, new skills and fun aspects, and consider the very likely networking rewards as an added bonus. I bet you’ll find plenty of both.
About the Author:
Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk (like rustic without the “t”) is the founder and owner of bbr companies llc. After having built a widely recognized and respected marketing firm, bbr marketing, she decided to make a big change in 2017 and scale her business back so she could focus on what she does best and brings her the most joy – strategic marketing planning and outsourced CMO-level services for professional services firms and other businesses. Most firms can benefit from the input of a seasoned, experienced strategic marketer, but don’t need or want to invest in that resource full-time. This way business leaders can focus on what they do best with the knowledge that their marketing (and often their marketing team) is being managed by an expert with their strategic plan always in mind. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.