By Sarah Nelmes, Professional Recruiter
Networking is a great way to build a community of people who can support and help you reach your goals. If you already have a solid network congrats, you’ve got a head start. If you’re just starting to cultivate your community, you’ll want to consider a few things.
Define what you want to achieve. Is it starting a side hustle? A full career change? Maybe you’re just wondering how to get to that next level at your current job? Do you want to find a professional mentor? These are all great reasons to tap into your network for help.
There are SO many ways to meet people and build relationships, from attending traditional networking events, joining specialized groups & forums online, going to meetups & happy hours, or even finding opportunities to connect organically while you’re just out living your life. Networking has come a long way from wearing a name tag, sipping well liquor, and making strained conversation until you can make a break for the hors d’oeuvres.
Ugh but I don’t wanna, talking to strangers sucks. Yeah, sometimes it does. But sometimes it totally rocks. Remember 3rd grade? Your family moved and you had to start over in a new school. You walked in on your first day and didn’t know anyone. Then Katie Parker said hi to you and you found out you both love Barbies and French braids and swimming and you became BFFL. Ok, I can’t promise that’s what every new meeting will be like, but I promise that most of us feel awkward making conversation with people we don’t know, so you’re not alone.
While you’re probably not looking for someone who knows how to braid hair or basing friendships off whose mom lets you eat the most Totino’s pizza rolls anymore (and if you are, no judgement here), you still have to put yourself out there to meet new people.
Not sure where to begin? Read on friends, we’ve got some tips to make things less intimidating because let’s face it, no one likes talking to strangers and for most of us it doesn’t come naturally.
Do your research. Find something local that’s in your field of interest. This seems obvious, but seriously if you’re going to invest time and energy, make sure you’re starting in the right place.
Come prepared. Practice answering some basic questions about yourself and also prepare a few to ask people you’ll meet there. Perfect your elevator pitch to highlight your personal brand. When in doubt, giving a compliment is always a great way to start a conversation.
Find your people. You have goals, now let’s get after it. There’s nothing wrong with talking to anyone and everyone, but if you get stuck talking to someone and it’s not going anywhere, excuse yourself to get a drink or use the restroom. Then take a lap and dive back in.
Stay ready. Keep in mind that you can make a connection anywhere, not just at an event dedicated to networking. Maybe your kid’s soccer coach works in an industry you want to break into, or you overhear a conversation at the dog park about a book you’re reading. Strike up a conversation based on mutual interests and see where it leads.
Thinking outside the box when it comes to making connections can create opportunities that you may not have otherwise. We hope you feel inspired to confidently connect and build your community!