When you’re in the market for a new job, or to increase your business connections, networking is your best friend.
I'm pretty sure you know that saying, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know”?
That pretty much sums up the importance of networking.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can expect to get a job solely based on who you know…
You still need the skills! But making connections is a HUGE part of the job (or client) hunt.
The best way to make those important connections is by putting yourself out there and getting to know more people.
Whether you’re looking for a job, looking for new clients, or looking for ways to expand your business, networking is the way to do it.
The connections you can make through networking can be huge!
When people think about networking, an image of mingling with strangers at a corporate event is typically what comes to mind.
Maybe you envision forced interaction, ice-breaking activities, and formal conversations. Sounds boring, right?
Networking doesn’t have to feel like a chore.
There are many unique - and even fun - ways to approach building future business opportunities. People are getting more creative in their networking efforts and the quality of their connections is improving because of it.
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Here are 7 Unusual Ways to Network:
Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, so this should already be something you consider doing.
But did you know that volunteering is also a great way to network and meet new people?
Here’s the thing. You shouldn’t go into volunteering just to get something out of it - you should do it because you want to give back.
That’s the whole point, after all!
Instead, when you’re there, take the chance to chat with other volunteers. Get to know them, and what they do outside of the volunteer space.
You’ll be amazed how many new people you can meet!
2. Make the most of your travel days
Do you find yourself traveling a lot for business?
Or maybe you have a long commute that you make regularly. Make the most of your time in transit and strike up a conversation with your fellow passengers.
If you have to travel, you might as well make the time productive. It can make it one of the most powerful of the unusual ways to network.
This is especially great on airplanes. If you’re in the air for a while, you might as well get to know the person right next to you!
You never know who you might meet. Many a business connection's been made on an airplane.
3. Attend a Workshop
Special interest workshops are great places to network.
Not only are workshops a great opportunity for you to develop a new skill, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who have similar interests.
If you work in the wellness industry, you could attend an event about essential oils or how to reduce stress in your life, for example.
You’ll be participating in something that genuinely interests you, AND in a room full of like-minded people.
Not interested in workshops per se? Consider joining Meetup.com.
It's a great website where like-minded people get together.
Groups range from cooking, new in town, to very specific industries or job titles. If you can't find a local group that interests you, you can always start your own!
Take the time to chat with new people, share your interests, and make some amazing connections.
4. Alumni Groups
High schools, post-secondary schools, and even certificate programs all have some sort of alumni group.
Most schools will send regular emails out letting alumni know about special events and upcoming reunions. Take the time to participate!
This is a great networking opportunity because yes, you can meet new people, but you’ll also re-connect with people from your past.
Networking can be easier when you already have a connection and things to talk about.
You may discover an old friend has a business that would be the perfect fit for you or be a great person to collaborate on that next big project with!
5. Hang Out in Facebook Groups
This is the easiest of the unusual ways to network for introverts!
(If you're an introvert you might want to check out How to Not be Awkward in Interviews!)
People spend a lot of time on social media.
And many of those people are using Facebook groups for their businesses. So start using your time more wisely on Facebook!
If you’re looking for a job, search for groups in your industry (there are many groups that are specifically for people to post jobs, too!). If you are looking for new clients, hang out in the groups they frequent.
It’s important to find groups relevant to your industry, and where your target market spends their time (if you’re a business owner). It’s not enough to just join these groups though…you need to be active!
Answer questions. Post helpful tidbits. Reach out to people.
Schedule some time each day to spend in each of your groups.
You’ll be amazed at the connections you make.
6. Go Where Your Kids Are
If you have kids, you’re likely used to the hustle and bustle of getting them to after-school activities, sporting events, and other special interest groups.
But, have you ever spent time there chatting with other parents?
The next time you take the kids to an activity, put your phone down and strike up a conversation with the other parents.
You all have something in common - your kiddos - so this should be an easy way to start a conversation.
You’re at these activities week after week (and sometimes more than once a week!), so you have lots of opportunities to make connections.
7. Join a Board of Directors
This is the ultimate in unusual ways to network!
If you’re looking for a way to get really involved in your community, joining the board of directors for a local organization or non-profit is a great way to do it!
Joining the board of an organization gives you the opportunity to showcase your skill set while giving back to the community.
You’ll meet lots of people this way - usually people who are well-connected.
And by joining a board of directors, you’re not only networking with other board members, you will have the opportunity to network with everyone associated with the organization.
Conclusion to 7 Unusual Ways to Network
It’s a well-known fact that networking is a crucial part of job searching as well as growing a business. Gone are the days of formal networking events being the only way to meet new people.
These events still have their advantages, of course, but you should try to think outside the box to make the most of your networking time.
Where are your ideal customers or clients spending their time?
What about your dream employer or ideal client - where could you find the opportunity to connect with them?
Think about the activities these people like to do...the places they spend their time - and make an effort to do the same.
This is how you should be networking.
If there’s a networking opportunity on this list that you haven’t tried yet, now’s the time to do it.
Pick one place you think people in your industry will be spending their time, and make a plan to get out and make connections.
There are endless ways to network, so think outside the box!
Share YOUR Unusual Ways to Network in the comments below!
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