Networking is one of the most valuable things you can do. The more people you know the better. You never know who is going to help you out in life. Whether it be a job referral, an inside tip about the hidden job market, or a successful blind date – your network plays an important role.
It’s your job to build an influential network of go getters, social butterflies, and business professionals. Networking helps you make contacts, build relationships, get to know people, expand your reputation, earn respect, and even find jobs. If you’re not constantly networking, you’re doing something wrong. Networking needs to be your #1 priority!
Try to talk to everyone regardless of who they are. Put a smile on your face and say hello. Start a conversation and make a connection. Ultimately, the more legitimate connections you have the better your chances of success. Just because you like someone on Facebook or LinkedIn does not mean they are a solid contact.
Unfortunately, networking is a challenging task for many people, but it’s something you have to do. Get your 30 second resume ready to rock and start meeting people. If you have a hard time building your network, here are some of the absolute best places to network:
- Chamber of Commerce Events – Businesses in your area always have like minded people who may need or know someone who needs your services.
- Professional Meetings – Professional associations and societies always have meetings where you can chat about your niche.
- The Office – Talk to your co-workers. Get to know them beyond a simple office connection.
- Cultural Events – Whether it’s an arts council event, fireworks for the 4th of July, or an annual renaissance fair, cultural events are an ideal place to meet others.
- Volunteer Opportunities – Volunteering is a great way to build a resume, but also a fantastic way to meet other folks.
- Job Fairs – This is one of the best places to get some face time with employers and fellow job seekers.
- Health Clubs/Yoga/Spa – When you’re taking a break from stretching or working out, chat with your neighbors.
- Outdoors – If you’re out for a hike, hitting the ski slopes, or playing some pickup basketball, you’re bound to meet interesting people with similar interests.
- Sporting Events – Are you a diehard Packers fan? Did you watch the Blackhawks last night? Sports are a perfect common ground to help break the ice.
- Happy Hour – Be social at happy hour. Talk to new people and see who you meet.
- Homeowner Meetings – Do you know what your neighbors do? Get to know them on a personal level.
- Parties – Office parties, holiday parties, and birthday parties are a fantastic opportunity to meet people you might not otherwise interact with.
- Community Events – Is your community hosting a 5 km run, doing a road cleanup, or hosting a free concert? Go out and participate.
- Religious Events – If you’re religious, you’ll be amazed at how many people you’ll meet.
- Online – While it’s important to log as much face time with people as possible, the online world is a booming place to network. Whether you’re on LinkedIn, run a blog, post on forums, or use event sites like MeetUp.com, the Internet is a networking machine.
- Alumni Events – What does your classmate from high school do now? How about that guy from your soccer team in college? Stay in touch with them and make contact regularly.
- Clubs – Are you a HAM radio operator? A member of a book club? Or a avid painter? Join a club of people who enjoy doing the same things as you.
- Coffee Shops – Grab a cup of joe and enjoy it at the local coffee shop. See who trickles in and chat with them.
- Dog Park – It’s always nice to let your four legged friend run free at the dog park. While Fido’s playing chase, see what the other dog owners are up to.
- Conferences & Retreats – Conferences are easy ways to keep up with your continuing education and learn new things. It’s also a superb way to meet other professionals in your industry.
- Family and Friends – Your direct connections almost always have a huge sphere of influence.
- Clients – Be personable with the clients you interact with. Chat with them and stay in touch.
- School – If you’re in school or even if you’re just picking up your child from school, get to know the other students and parents.
Networking is easier than you think. Smile. Be nice. Be friendly. Be confident. Be outgoing. Be yourself. People will like you and your network will grow quicker than you can even imagine. It all starts with a smile and a hello.
The key is to never stop networking. Try to strike up a conversation with everyone you meet – the person next to you on an airplane, the guy waiting at the bus stop, the snowboarder riding the chairlift, or the person waiting in line for a new iPhone. Every connection you make is important. Have a pocket full of business cards and a mouthful of conversation starters ready to go.
People want to help you and you can return the favor too. Make a goal to improve your networking skills. Make it your number one priority.