Do a quick Google News search for networking and you’ll find ‘About 27,800,000 results’ – everything from how-to features with tips and suggestions, clickbait warning about the ’10 worst networking fails you might already be doing’ to articles on why it’s the most (or least) important element that you should (or shouldn’t) care about.
I’ve always had some trepidation with the word “networking.” It conjures up scenarios in my mind best described as a business equivalent of a rom-com speed-dating montage. That’s why I don’t do it – I just do things I’m interested in.
Earlier this week I attended an event for volunteers and supporters of the 5 To Watch awards that recognize leaders in the Canadian sports business and raise funds for the George Brown College Foundation. To date, they’ve raised $150,000 for student awards and bursaries.
As a sports nut that only recently left a role in the industry, it was great to connect with other like-minded people in support of a great cause. We talked about the program and how great it is. We talked about the NHL playoffs, a little Champions League, Kobe, the Raptors and the Warriors. We talked about industry trends: the good, the bad, the ugly.
This is how I’ve met like-minded individuals and forged relationships – through shared contributions. This could be anything from volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about, joining a beer league softball team of people you don’t know, neighbourhood clean-up days, or taking a personal interest course. Many employers (including ruckus and our sister agency APEX PR) encourage employees to do this, offering paid time off for volunteering and support for professional development.
So stop trying to network – and start doing more of what you enjoy.