Step Up Your Networking Game: Part I

There is no denying the value of networking, especially for freelancers, entrepreneurs, or newcomers to a city. But the field of networking is so extensive that it can often be difficult to pin down exactly where to focus your time and energy. With so many options out there, the idea of networking can leave people overwhelmed and unsure where to start. We decided it was time to boil the vague term "networking" down to a simple list of guidelines, and we'll be expanding on a few of them today and in the weeks to come.

Successful networking involves:

- Making yourself aware of all the networking channels available to you

- Testing the waters – discovering what fits and what doesn’t

- Pursuing the channels that fit, and ditching the ones that don’t

- Being willing to put in the time and effort to engage in meaningful networking

- Being genuine – it’s the key to forging lasting connections


Networking Channels: What Routes Can I Pursue?

Below, we’ve rounded up a sampling of networking channels that are worthy of pursuing:

  • Seek out professional organizations that are tailored to your industry. Most national organizations have chapters in almost every major U.S. city, and some industries have additional organizations that are unique to a specific city. A simple Google search will do the trick.
     
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, join your local chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). With 160 chapter locations in 50 countries, you are bound to find one near you.
     
  • Scope out the Internet for networking events or workshops taking place around town. These types of events can also be found posted on community boards at libraries, coffee shops, and the like. They can include anything from happy hours to educational or wellness workshops.
     
  • Take a class. Even if it is just one night a week, you never know you who might meet while doing yoga, painting, or learning a language.
     
  • Join a local group on social media. There are groups categorized by industry, hobby, and neighborhood, as well as groups created solely for local entrepreneurs and small business owners. Usually, these groups will host regular in-person meetings and events, or at the very least will engage in an ongoing rapport through social media.
     
  • Create an account on MeetUp.com. Again, there are groups tailored to just about every type of interest or industry out there, both personal and professional. Many people utilize MeetUp when they move to a new city and want to expand their social circle.
     
  • Join a co-working space. Instead of working from home or the local café, rent a desk or office in a co-working space. These spaces come with a community feel and often host networking and educational events. They also provide a diverse pool of expertise, since people in co-working spaces come from a variety backgrounds and industries.
     
  • Join an organization designed specifically for business owners. For example, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) has chapters all the across the US. Check out the Nashville chapter here. As a member, you can partake in monthly leadership luncheons and quarterly social events.
     
  • Is there a specific person with whom you want to connect? Call them or reach out via e-mail with a short explanation of who you are and why you’d like to meet. Be clear with your intentions.
     
  • Volunteer with a local non-profit organization. Doing good for your community is a great way to meet locals.

Any networking channels we didn't cover? Share them with us! Stay tuned for more posts on networking and how to do it well.