The key to effective networking is to actually do it, and taking opportunities to do it on a daily basis, everywhere you go and regardless of whom you are with.
Ideally, you should view every day and event as a new opportunity to expand your network of contacts, because timing is everything and sometimes it is who you know, or who you meet, who can make all the difference.
If you feel like you have tried all the usual spots (such as during “Happy Hour” in your city’s business district, or networking events and conferences), take heed, because there are abundant networking opportunities virtually everywhere you go … even in the most surprising places.
1. Gym Classes
It is true, meeting people at the gym is not a novel concept. But thanks to the proliferation of gyms, they have become more of a community than just a place to exercise and sweat.
You never know who you will be training with, or working out beside, so be friendly. They could end becoming your new boss, business partner, or a critical connection, who refers you to a dream opportunity.
2. Book Clubs
This one is maybe more often for the ladies. Forget wine-tasting and jewelry parties, book clubs are the newest cultural trend. People are looking for community and conversation, and book clubs are fulfilling this need.
For starters, book clubs take away the pressure of having to approach someone, like at a conference or traditional networking setting. They help you connect and discuss issues with others in an organic, natural way.
If you are part of a regular book club, it might even become the venue for other members to share job openings and opportunities in between swapping notes about the book.
If reading is not really your thing, then look into other clubs in your area. There could be art classes and exhibits, or other cultural activities that are more to your liking.
3. Charity Organizations
Not only will helping a cause close to your heart make you feel good, but it is also an easy and fulfilling way to expand your network, almost automatically. We tend to have our guard down while volunteering, so it is an easy way to introduce yourself and widen your network.
Play it forward and join a planning committee for a fund raising event, or help out at your leisure. It is a win-win.
4. Vacation Destinations
The ultimate place where people are extremely relaxed is at vacation spots. But just because you are “out of office” does not mean you can’t work the crowd.
Cruises and resorts are a networking goldmine. So if you feel guilty about unplugging while on vacation, then take comfort in the fact that you might be making valuable professional connections while making memories.
Destinations like cruises and resorts always have icebreakers, which allow vacationers to strike up conversations and get out of their comfort zone.
5. Golf Course
Golf can be an extremely effective networking tool. It has long been said that “it is not what you know, but who you know”, and simply put, a golf course is a great place to get to know someone.
Even if you don’t play a full round or just nine holes, you are guaranteed at least a couple hours with those in your golf group.
Golf is a game that involves a lot of downtime, so it affords plenty of opportunity for quality conversation. Take advantage of this.
You don’t have to be a good golfer to make a good impression. It comes down to how you carry yourself while you play, which is far more important than how well you actually do play.
The above examples of prime networking opportunities exist everywhere. You simply need to be alert and pay attention to the people and places around you. Happy Networking!