Earlier this year, I went to a networking event, the first one in quite some time. Yeah, one of those traditional in-person, after-work things that introverts like me tend to avoid like the plague. But I felt it was time to get a little uncomfortable and venture beyond my comfort zone. Fortunately, I recognized someone right away, and this provided a good “ease-in” to help get my feet wet. Overall, the evening went well enough, but these are still “fish-out-of-water” situations for me that fall low on my list of preferred networking approaches.
Fortunately, there are other less traditional, more unconventional ways to make professional connections that can be equally productive and effective, not only for me, but also for those I coach. Part of my job is to get others thinking holistically about networking and use a combination of strategies. For example, LinkedIn is a really effective networking tool if done right. And of course, one of the benefits to virtual networking is that it can be done 24/7 at your convenience. But one of the big mistakes that people make is to put up a LinkedIn profile and call it a day. But more about this in a future blog post.
Beyond doing the online thing, it’s a good idea to consider some other forms of in-person networking opportunities like volunteering. Volunteering has the triple benefit of making the world a better place, helping us gain perspective on our own personal situations, and putting ourselves in a position to interact and establish connections. Actually, any situation where we can interact with others is a networking opportunity: working out at the gym, going food shopping, hanging out at the local coffee shop, joining a meetup, the list goes on and on. Also keep in mind that some approaches may be a better fit than others, depending on where we fall on the introvert-extrovert continuum.
So yes, definitely check out local in-person networking events but also throw in some unconventional and creative things into the mix. A combination of both approaches may just produce the best results!