Regardless of the industry you’re in, now is the time to capitalize on networking opportunities. But if you’re like most people, you aren’t keen on selling or marketing to people, and you may be a bit shy. If you’re tired of the dull mixers you find yourself at, here are some unique business networking opportunities that you can try, regardless of what type of business you’re in. Even better, a lot of groups and organizations are free to join and allow opportunities for you to meet others who are like-minded in a relaxed atmosphere.
Have you investigated joining your local Chamber of Commerce? In Houston , our Chambers are divided by geographical area, and joining more than one Chamber may be beneficial. Chambers usually have at least one event monthly, and most of these events are relatively casual. Because they are so local, you might find that some of the other members are your neighbors, whom you might not have known otherwise.
Most medium to large sized cities have international business organizations that have open membership. Not to be confused with consulates, these networking groups are usually government sponsored, but focus on connecting businesses in their home country with businesses in the United States . Events sponsored by these organizations can be lots of fun and can yield some interesting business opportunities as well as some great relationships.
Let your interests guide you to local interest groups that you like. If one of your interests is gardening, join the local gardening club. Book clubs can be an interesting place to network, too. If you’re artsy, join an improv troupe, choir, or art club and if you like sports, check at your fitness clubs for pick-up basketball or soccer teams.
Political organizations are becoming more and more common. Some are more exclusive than others, but if you and your business lean one way or the other politically, join an organization that promotes these beliefs and ideals. You’ll have an instant connection with like-minded people and the conversation will certainly never be boring. Some groups have lavish monthly meetings with high-profile guest speakers, while others are much more casual.
If you practice a religion, visit the local places of worship and see what events are offered. A lot of the time, places of worship will have lots of fun volunteer activities that focus on the community, allowing you to meet like-minded people and make the place that you live a better place at the same time.
Gender or industry specific groups are becoming more and more popular and exclusive. Chances are, your office is already a member of several of these groups, but take some time to do research on your own and see if you can find a niche that you find interesting. Some groups are both gender and industry specific, and some focus on one or the other, and empowering members to reach out to each other and prominent business leaders in the community that are like-minded.
If you’re a graduate of a local college or university, check with the alumni office or directly with the area of study you graduated from to see if they have university or college-specific networking groups. Obviously, the college of business at your university will probably have plenty of networking opportunities, but many other colleges offer options, too. If your specific college doesn’t have an alumni group of graduates, offer to be the head of this group and recruit members or join the university general alumni. A lot of the time, activities will consist of going to sporting events, participating in tailgating, or volunteering at local organizations.