Networking seems easy for some people. They are introduced to a group of strangers and within minutes they’ll be chatting and mingling. Others have trouble with basic networking skills, costing job opportunities, customers, and chances to advance.
Still, even if you’re an introvert (and I class myself as at least semi-introverted), you can increase your real world networking in your leisure time. You can have fun doing it and it starts by tapping into a passion.
Where To Start Networking? Go Local…
In every city or large town there are groups for almost everything.
There are hobby groups, discussion groups, groups for improving yourself and more. They’re full of people who share an interest.
Where I live there is a history society, art and photography group. There’s running club, a weight loss class and German language morning.
By joining these groups all you have to do is talk about what you’re interested in. You can ask questions and give answers. Be sure to connect with these people on social media sites too.
Demonstrate Skills & Knowledge (Without Pitching)
I like to be involved in extracurricular activities related to business, hobbies and interests.
Bringing people together of their own volition is the beginning of a genuine social network.
People need to know, like and trust one another before doing business. I say, leave your business agenda out of the conversation unless someone else mentions it.
Case Study: Web Design/Development Meetup
My activities include building community websites and resources locally. Some of these involve meeting up regularly while others are just online.
You might be a seamstress looking for business, and might start a knitting group.
You might run a music shop, and get involved with free music sessions.
For a while I’ve been interested in starting a Derby or Nottingham WordPress social club near to where I live.
There are a few people who would like to take part locally. I met with someone this past weekend to discuss it.
We recorded a 10 minute chat using my iRig Mic Cast for the iPhone, sharing ideas about a monthly meetup.
Press the play button below…
Now that you’ve listened, you can probably tell this social meetup of ours aims to be the antithesis to any formal old boy network.
I’ve been chatting on Twitter about it. Me and the co-orgainser held a “pilot” meeting with a few people from Derby and Nottingham.
@wpheanor love the idea of this – how do I book to come along?
— Sarah Banks (@banksbussolns) August 24, 2015
It served as a great piece of market research as well as the chance to test out some large wall mounting monitors. We played with software to see if we could stream a webinar.
Turns out you can with TeamViewer.
We discovered all kinds of things we didn’t anticipate and decided we would have to move to a larger city – either Derby or Nottingham. Heanor was in between the two and we discovered via Twitter people were not willing to travel that far.
The pizza was really nice by the way! But the other guy didn’t have a bottle opener for the cold beer in the kitchen. 😀
Benefits of Volunteering
Being part of a social club is about volunteering. Those in attendance give up their time to be part of a group knowing that they are building social capital with that community.
Depending on what you volunteer for you could meet some fairly important people. Will it help your current career, business or job hunting efforts?
You’ll have to go ahead and see. To know and be known by a greater number of people is always a good thing.
Think about what you are interested in. Do you like helping people or are you more for behind the scenes work?
Once you find out what your passion is, find an organisation, group or community that fits these interests.
If you do free, voluntary, unpaid or charitable work, do not be naive. Not everyone is out to take advantage but choose carefully what you give your time to.
Just don’t be the impatient person who attends business networking session only to lurk in the corner complaining no one is showing interest in him.
Get out there. Do something that gets you meeting people.
I’ve been recording some of that chats I’ve had with people on certain topics. One of my favourites is a conversation with a local business in Ilkeston about the forthcoming railway station in development.
You can listen to some of the recordings I’ve made if you want to get an idea of what I talk to people about.
Why No Amount of Social Media Can Ever Equal Meeting Face to Face – Terrific article on Entrepreneur.com giving great advice on meeting people face to face.
I like the bit where it suggest striking up conversation with strangers.