Networking is widely known as a crucial aspect of growing one’s professional career. However, the concept of networking at large has a certain stigma associated with it—conferences, business cards, and LinkedIn are likely the first things to come to mind. Networking doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, such a formulaic and static activity. One tactic for shaking up your networking experience is to try less common strategies for networking. Next, we will discuss a few of these unorthodox approaches to networking.
Be proactive and seek out networking activities on your own time
You don’t have to wait for conferences to do networking. Take advantage of the Internet and social media websites to find those connections you must have in your network. Check digital communities like Meetup or Groupon to see if you can find local events or to interact with other professionals in your area. This is a great way to make connections on your time, and it can be a bit better than conventional networking because it is a casual situation where people are more likely to open up to you on a personal level, this will make your connection stronger and more likely to last the test of time.
Engage with your connections; foster your relationship with your connections
Simply adding connections to your network isn’t enough. If you want to actually get something out of your connections, you’ll need to foster actual relationships with your professional connections and keep the lines of communication open and buzzing. Contact people periodically via email or a telephone call, or perhaps even meet them for coffee or happy hour if that is possible. This is essential for keeping your connections fruitful and productive for years to come.
Expand your networking efforts beyond the business world
If you are looking for a new job, new connections, or new business opportunities, don’t just limit yourself to talking about these aspirations with just those in your field—tell everyone that you know. Now, this doesn’t mean just telling random strangers on the street. This can involve telling acquaintances you see nearly everyday, like the barista who gives you your daily coffee or your neighbor, with the same goal as professional networking.
It can be easy to settle on the idea that networking is just for those in your professional field, and only appropriate during a conference or on LinkedIn. However, networking is a process not confined to these places and times. These unorthodox methods aren’t the limit either: let your creativity take wing to come up with more exciting networking opportunities, and your career will surely benefit.