Networking. Right? That nebulous term surrounding the idea of meeting people in a formal setting, to not only exchange business cards, but maybe even leverage them down the line for employment or business opportunities.
Can we get any more authentic than that?
Didn’t think so.
Nonetheless, there is a huge demographic of people that absolutely loathe the idea of networking. (Seriously, it’s not just you!)
It could stem from nerves, feeling disingenuine, lack of clarity/purpose, or just a pure dislike towards socializing in groups.
Commonly, when people think about networking, the first term that comes to mind is “Meetups”. Attending meetups and networking mixers are the most common representation.
Well, while I was talking with my colleague the other day, we were discussing these three personal networks that many of us have access to, that we rarely tap into.
Nonetheless, here they are!
Yes, I’m sure the thought of tapping into our old University connections has crossed our minds from time-to-time, but rarely is it utilized.
This is great because it’s far from limited to the people you used to have a beer with or run to class in the morning while you were late.
You have an entire alumni network of graduates that you may have crossed paths with, shared a class with, or graduated years before/after, at your disposal.
Many Universities have local chapters, so even if you’ve relocated across the country (or overseas), there are alumni that are accessible nearby.
So, google the Alumni page for your Alma-Matter, see if they have a local group in your area, and get connected. Alternatively, you can always reach out to the Alumni Coordinator and ask for suggestions.
And don’t forget to browse on LinkedIn – as there might be a number of potential connections that aren’t currently involved in your local alumni network.
2. Your Friends and Family
Again, this isn’t a hidden network, just an often-neglected network that you have at your disposal.
Yes, you may have tapped into your immediate F&F network – you’ve asked your parents, siblings, and close friends for connections. But have you tapped into your extended friends and family network?
No no, I swear I’m not secretly Thomas Middleditch, doing one of his quirky plugs for Verizon, here.
I’ll digress. Most of us have acquaintances from high school, University, and our past roles. We have friends we’ve kept on Facebook and maintained contact with, or we have family members that are cousins, aunts and uncles, etc.
There are two simple ways of accessing this network further.
A. If you have identified someone specifically who you want to reach out to – either for their information or because they work in an industry/for an employer who may have people you want to talk to.
B. Writing a catch-all post for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. When you write a thoughtful post and call-to-action for help, it will usually go well.
This is such an underrated network when you’re job seeking or looking for informational interviews. It’s low effort and should not be overlooked!
3. Your Community
Lastly, is your community.
No matter how many Netflix shows we binge, or how hard we strive to hide from the real world, we still have a community of people in our activities.
Do you play recreational sports?
Are you a part of a congregation?
Do you volunteer for any organizations?
Do you have a weekly poker/card game?
So, take a few minutes and sit down to take an inventory of all the engagements you have that you can potentially tap into and the people that you could reach out to.
Remember, these connections don’t have to directly lead to a referral or be working in the same industry as you. You’re merely trying to build your network, and the first step in putting that together is finding your first-tier connections.
Regardless of whether a potential first-tier connection works in your industry or at a company you would be interested in, they have their own personal networks.
If you play your cards right, they might be willing to open up for you and introduce you to people who do work in your industry or for companies you have on your radar.
If you’d like to read more about how you can “hack’ the networking game, and start building an awesome list of people who will go to bat for you, here’s a recent post on taking the “work” out of networking!