Networking events are great opportunities to mingle with industry professionals, exchange contact information and build relationships. But, you don’t have to wait for a networking event to roll around to meet other people. There are plenty of places that you might not normally think of where you can make connections.
In this post, we’ll share with you five unexpected places to network with other individuals and grow your career.
Walk into any Starbucks and you’re bound to see a handful of people working away on their computers. These communal workspaces are growing more popular by the day. They can be found within workplaces but also in everyday society such as coffee shops, fast food restaurants, libraries, community activity centers, hotels and more. All that is needed is a few tables with chairs, a couple of comfy couches or arm chairs and internet connection.
One of the benefits to working in a shared workspace is that you are next to people who are chipping away at their own responsibilities. This creates a sense of unity even though you and the next person may have very different jobs. For those who work remotely and have trouble getting motivated at home, being part of a collective workspace can help them be more productive with their time.
Meeting people at the gym is nothing new, but fitness clubs have expanded their services to appeal to a wider demographic. Therefore, there are many more types of people that you can meet while taking a spinning class or working with a trainer.
People of all fitness levels join health clubs to participate in exercise classes, boot camps, swim sessions and more. There are times reserved for older adults who practice low-impact exercises, parents with kids and more. Knowing the type of people you hope to meet will help you choose the best times to head to the gym.
It can be difficult to strike up a conversation in the middle of a yoga pose, so use promotional products to your advantage. Branded merchandise goes perfect in the gym – think water bottles, duffle bags, t-shirts, gym mats and more. If the right people see your brand name, the conversation can start organically.
Another great place to network is when volunteering at a charity event. Your conversations can be even more powerful if the event relates to your business in some way. For example, if your company manages a food delivery service and you help out at a food pantry, there is an instant connection. This makes it easier to start an introduction.
It’s also worth pointing out that volunteering encourages us to put our guards down. When dropping off the kids at daycare, working out at the gym or running errands, we tend to have a wall up. Usually it’s because we are in a hurry and don’t want to be bothered. Volunteering, on the other hand, requires us to take out time out from our busy schedules to help others. An afternoon volunteering makes us more open to connecting with other people.
The last thing you want to do on vacation is work, but meeting new contacts is acceptable. It doesn’t take time away from relaxing and family. In fact, it can make the trip a lot more fun! A boring plane ride can instantly turn interesting when you have someone to talk to. The person you’re sitting next to is obviously coming or going from your destination, so your product or service could be relevant to them.
When you reach your destination, the networking person in you doesn’t have to shut down. You can (and should!) unplug but you don’t need to feel guilty about not getting work done. Take comfort in the fact that you may be making valuable connections along the way. Whether it’s dinner and drinks, checking into the hotel or sightseeing popular destinations, there are plenty of opportunities to start a conversation.
If you have kids (or nieces and nephews), chances are you attend your fair share of soccer games, dance recitals, science fairs and school plays. Make the most of these events by spending time with family and enhancing your career. The benefit to mingling at school events is that you are getting your brand name in front of a local audience – many of them parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Also, people come to kids’ activities for community and conversation. Some events are more formal than others, but almost all provide an avenue for rich conversation. People are more open and receptive to listening so you don’t have to be aggressive. You can also use the one big thing that you both share in common – having a young child in your life – to initiate the conversation.
As you can see, you don’t need a networking event to meet other people. You should be networking all of the time, as you never know when a new opportunity could come your way. Always be pleasant, friendly and confident. More importantly, don’t ask for anything in return – at least right away. Get to know the other person with no strings attached.