There are a lot of fancy-sounding words that get tossed around in the corporate business world—synergy, sustainability, interfacing and transparency being just a few of them. One word that’s used more often than not is “networking” and it’s used in a huge number of settings. Are you going to that networking lunch? Are you attending that trade show for its networking opportunities? Did you network with John to get the information you needed?
When it comes right down to it, all of these fancy corporate words have simple meanings and “networking” is no different: it’s basically a fancy term for talking to people and making new business connections that might be useful in the future. Most of the time these connections are mutually beneficial and can go a long way towards helping you to grow your business in the long term.
But how do you network properly and where does good networking take place? The answer can be anywhere at any time, but more often than not, it happens right in your own community. You don’t have to fly across the country to a fancy trade show or spend hours and hours at seminars to cultivate the right business relationships: all you have to do is get out there and be a part of your hometown community!
The best business doesn’t feel like business
They say that the best business interactions feel more like play than work—those times when you take a client to lunch or go on a company retreat or something else outside of your office enclosure. This is often true because there’s a sense of unburdening that comes with getting out of the office. It’s this feeling that will let you know when you’re about to make a meaningful networking connection.
The best part about networking within your community is that you don’t have to put on your best business suit and speak the company line—all you have to do is be yourself and participate in things that you enjoy. It sounds crazy, but it’s proven to create longer, more meaningful business relationships! Take a look:
Jim works for a local print shop during the week, but on the weekends, he’s an active part of a community cleanup organization. They help to beautify local parks, clean up the highways and they partake in local eco-events to raise awareness about environmental sustainability.
While participating in one of his weekend cleanup events, Jim finds himself talking to Pam about her job—Pam works for a local veterinary clinic. Pam tells Jim that her vet needs updated brochures about different pet care options, but isn’t sure where to go to get the materials made up to look professional. Jim smiles, gives Pam a business card and later that following week, the two email about Pam’s needs and Jim’s capabilities. Pam gets her brochures, Jim brings in business and a new connection is made.
The above example or something similar happens far more often than you might think! All it takes is two people from different career backgrounds talking and a mutually beneficial partnership is sure to blossom in time. What’s more, these collaborative community efforts often go beyond just two people—connections can happen in entire groups, where everyone walks away with a new prospective networking partner.
Find those who need your help
How can you make your networking experience within your community as simple as the example listed above in this blog? Easy: find something you’re passionate about and the rest will come naturally!
Think of it this way: when people with a similar interest or common cause get together, they’re bound to get to talking and sooner or later, things always come around to, “what do you do for a living.” In many cases, people will be genuinely interested and take note of what you do—especially if it can benefit them—and more often than not, as the conversation rolls on, people will start to see opportunities to network with you. The rest will take care of itself!
It all starts with finding something you enjoy and meeting people who also enjoy this same thing. It can be a community cause, a local club, an enthusiast’s meeting or even just your local group of bar patrons—what matters is that you immerse yourself in your community and the people who are a part of it. Who would have thought that a snazzy business term like “networking” could be the same as chatting with a person in your free time or making a new friend who lives in your town?