Networking doesn’t have to be awkward or painful. Some people view it as a bland interaction inherent to business functions, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are 11 ways to network without it feeling like a burden.
1.) Get Active Online – Why not make professional connections in your pajamas? By getting involved in online discussions – on forums, social networks, or other avenues – you can keep abreast of current industry trends while making inroads with far-flung professionals.
2.) Volunteer – Want to feel good and build your network? Volunteering provides a threefold benefit: it makes a difference, gives you a sense of pride, and helps you to stock your network with people all across the professional spectrum.
3.) Workout – A workout session can do more than burn fat and boost your blood flow; it can help you make connections. Think about it: you already share a passion for fitness and once you’re done talking about protein shakes and calisthenics, you can discuss careers and hand out your business card.
4.) Party – Next time you’re at a party, don’t forget to build your network. The pressure is low and you can keep most of the conversation light. In fact, you can build up rapport over other interests before digging down into professional talk.
5.) Grab a Cup of Coffee – 83 percent of American adults start the day with a cup of java. Some brew grounds at home but there are more than enough Starbucks aficionados out there. Strike up talk in line with your fellow caffeine junkies and you might just get a business card out of the deal.
6.) Take a Vacation – Trapped in a career cul-de-sac? Get out of town. You can let the pressures of work melt away and make acquaintances with people whom you’d never have met. That way, if you ever need a change of scenery, you’ll have advocates in other corners of the country.
7.) Go Back to School – Universities, community colleges, and technical certification programs are great places to build your network with likeminded people. Professionals here are committed to improving their career standing and are more than willing to get their networking wheels in motion.
8.) Be a Good Neighbor – Community involvement is another great way to find networking opportunities outside of your typical radar. You can connect with your neighbors, build your skills, and get your business card out to a diverse group of people.
9.) Attend a Lecture – Whether the lecture is relevant to your field or completely offbeat, you can easily build your network at these events. You have a readymade conversation starter. Just segue into the networking rhythm from there.
10.) Follow Your Passion – Have a hobby? Try connecting with other enthusiasts. You can build your network online or at physical gatherings. Maybe you have more things in common than old school kung fu movies or muscle cars. Find out and reap the networking rewards.
11.) Tailgate – If you’re a sports fan, tailgate networking can be a godsend. It’s easy to leap into conversations about star players and record-breaking seasons. Plus, you don’t have to stop there. If everything naturally flows, you can get your business card in the hands of people across industries.
by James Walsh