Don’t limit yourself to a narrow definition of professional networking. Learn how to expand your approach with these creative networking tips.
The term “networking” may have connotations of the golf course or a mixer in a bar after work. But networking really means increasing and strengthening your connections, which can be accomplished in a variety of ways. If you broaden your horizons, creative networking can be done in any number of settings tailored to your preferences. Here are five tips to go beyond collecting business cards.
Network at Work
You don’t even have to leave your office to start networking. Go to coffee with a colleague that you don’t know well, and you can open up the possibilities in your own workplace. In the long term, it can lead to meeting new people within your organization, opportunities to apply or develop your skills or even a promotion. In the short term, this has an added benefit of getting to know and understand your colleagues better.
Use Reconnection as Networking
Networking doesn’t always have to take place in person or with people you don’t know. In fact, networking is often more powerful when it’s cumulative, and not just a one-off encounter the first time you meet someone. Networking can also mean reconnecting with former colleagues and sending notes of appreciation, congratulations on work anniversaries, or other virtual ways to stay in touch.
Create your Own Networking Club
Don’t wait for a professional organization to dictate the rules of networking -- create your own! Successful networking can revolve around any shared activity, such as book clubs, foodie groups or whatever interests you. Silicon Valley investor Greg Gretsch, for example, uses his love of cycling as a way to meet other to work with. “Connecting with people is important to what I do, and you can learn a lot about a person, and from a person, on the bike,” Gretsch told the New York Times.
Network through Volunteering
Sometimes, networking can feel like it’s about gladhanding and backscratching. But you should be able to provide something of value to others when you network, which is why volunteering can be such a valuable benefit to everyone involved. In addition to helping you meet community leaders, volunteering can be an opportunity to experience another work sector, develop new skills and take on a leadership role as a trial next step within your organization. Volunteering can be good for more than the soul.