Does professional networking feel like a hassle? Do you always feel like a wallflower at networking events? Are you never quite sure whether your attempts to connect with other professionals have been successful or not? Well, you’re certainly not alone. Professional networking does come naturally to some individuals, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a learned skill. Here are a few tips to help make networking more enjoyable, less stressful and more successful in the long run.

Think Outside the Networking Box

Networking opportunities aren’t limited to professional organization meetings, corporate mixers or networking groups. In fact, networking opportunities can occur in just about any situation. The trick is to place yourself in the path of other professionals that might turn out to be a good connection. Do you work out at a gym close to the office? Rather than tuning out the world, consider joining a class. Chances are your classmates will also be professionals working nearby. Having the chance to interact and build friendships with other professionals in a more relaxed atmosphere helps to take the pressure off, but can still result in some high-quality professional connections.

Get Out in Your Community

Professional organizations are a great resource for building your network, but community organizations can also be a great resource for making connections. We really can benefit from meeting and engaging with people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Consider joining a civic group, such as Kiwanis or Lions, or a volunteer-driven organization like Habitat for Humanity or Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. You should focus on sharing your expertise to build your network. Keep in mind that every connection you make is the addition of another professional network to your own network, resulting in exponential growth that can really pay off.

Take a Class

Interested in learning a new skill? Sign up for a class. Whether you are interested in taking on a new hobby or taking your career in a different direction, the classroom is a natural place to connect with other people with shared interests. You could find yourself rubbing elbows with VIPs and new clients in a very natural and conversational venue. You simply might not ever have the opportunity to meet certain people within a professional context, so take yourself out of the networking cage and engage with other people in a more natural and interesting environment.

Go to a Party

The fact is you will never meet new people unless you surround yourself with new people. Attending a party where you know the host, but few others, is a great opportunity to network on a personal level and practice even if there isn’t a professional connection in sight. The lack of pressure helps to get you comfortable with introducing yourself and meeting new friends. It also helps to relax and enjoy yourself when reaching out to new connections.

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