Recently, someone asked me what the best networking groups are and if I could point them to a list of local networking groups. The question caught me off guard. Sure, I love to network, right? Networking is fun and crucial in my current role as Director of Development and Marketing for a small non-profit. We are funded 100% by our community, therefore, I must network in order to raise awareness about what we do. However, I realized that I don’t really do it. Not deliberately, anyway. And if I am being honest, the whole idea of networking groups really turns me off. I cringe to think about a bunch of sales people grouped together handing out business cards and shoving their product or service down each other’s throats. Okay, so that may be harsh. Not all networking groups or events are like that, but some are.
So I stopped, reflected, and answered: Forget networking in the literal sense and volunteer. When you get together with a group of passionate people and work to further a cause in which you really believe, you will make incredible, worthwhile connections, not to mention all the good you will do for the community. I love volunteering and do so as much as I can, and I have made some incredible connections that have served me well professionally- though that was not my intention.
So that is my two cents. Stop placing so much emphasis on networking and finding the right networking group and just do something that makes you feel good. That’s when you really shine. That’s when you make a difference. That’s how you make real connections.