Let’s face it: most of us would rather have a root canal than attend a networking event. Just the word “networking” conjures up images of the worst case scenario: a room full of strangers, struggling to make any connection, feeling pressured and uncomfortable.
But here’s the good news. Networking isn’t actually about events. Networking is about building up a web of mutually beneficial connections to help you succeed.
Which means that networking can actually be accomplished without attending a single ‘networking’ event. As long as you’re creating and building connections with people, you’re networking. There are tons of other and (in my opinion) better ways to find your people than attending a networking event. Here are a few examples:
- The direct approach
- If you know of someone you’d like to meet or get to know better, why not simply reach out and request a phone call or a meeting? A woman did this with me recently and we had a lovely chat
- Meet your neighbours
- Join your neighbourhood association/condo board/or community league, or just take a plate of cookies around door to door. That’s what I do!
- Get fixed up
- Some of my most valuable connections came through an introduction from an existing contact. Go ahead and ask for them. As long as you’re careful to be respectful of all parties, it’s a great strategy.
- Be a regular
- An establishment can be a good way to make connections over time, especially if you have frequent cause to visit. Try to use the same grocery store, restaurant, bar, corner store, bakery, library, etc…. as often as possible. Learn the names of the staff, say hello, make conversation, and let things develop from there.
- Take a class
- Many of us met some of our best friends at school – it’s a great environment for connection. Even if graduation day was a long time ago, you can recapture a little of that magic by signing up for a class.
- Volunteering is another way to come into contact with new people without the pressure or difficulty of a networking event. I wrote a whole post about it if you’d like to read more – here.
- Social media
- To quote one of my favourite social media experts (Randy Brososky, btw), “Your connection isn’t complete until you breathe the same air.” But online platforms can be a great way to generate the beginnings of those in person meetings.
- Mine your rolodex
- Most of us have known lots of people over the years, and haven’t kept in touch with them all. If you’re looking to bulk up your networks, why not take a trip down memory lane and see if any of those old connections deserve a new look? People you went to school with, extended family members, old neighbours, former colleagues – you never know where they might have ended up.
As you can see, there’s definitely more than one way to skin this cat we call networking. These are just a few ideas; I’m sure you could come up with several more. The point is to meet people and develop relationships. As long as you’re accomplishing that, there’s no reason to feel pressure to stand around in rooms you hate.
When I announced this as January’s topic to my We Hate Networking Meetup members, they pointed out the irony of inviting people to an event about avoiding events. I’ll admit, it’s pretty funny. Nevertheless, you’re invited to join us January 18th to work on your non-event networking skills. Sign up – we’d love to see you there.