Networking Fun

When people stress the importance of networking, I kind of whine and moan internally. I always envision going to those stuffy networking receptions where everyone sips champagne and eats caviar and passes out business cards while wearing expensive Italian suits. (Does that really happen?)

But this is a new era! Networking is increasingly becoming more informal, and you just might make some valuable connections where you least expect it. Here are some random ways you can network without groaning -- whether it's audibly or in your head! Shout out to Forbes.com for the awesomeness.
 
1) Reinvent the Meet and Mingle
 
Have you always wanted to join a book club? Take a cooking class? Learn to sail at the local yacht club? Take an underwater basket weaving class? Do it! Plenty of professionals pursue hobbies to escape their stressed-out work lives, and when they're relaxed and enjoying themselves, they're probably more likely to chat it up. You never know -- you could be molding clay pots next to your future boss!
 
2) Go Where the People Go
 
You may have heard about a place where locals in your industry like to hang out after work. Whether it's a cocktail bar or a hole-in-the-wall eatery, ask around to find out where the professionals in your field like to unwind. You don't have to dive right in and talk about work, but just being around people in your industry and striking up casual conversations could lead to valuable connections.
 
3) Take Up a Cause
 
If you've been wanting to donate your time to a cause but haven't gotten around to it, do it NOW! Volunteering at a church, animal sanctuary, or non-profit can introduce you to a ton of people you might not normally run into at networking events!
 
4) Work It
 
Lots of bigwigs attend fancy fundraisers to sip on wine and nibble hors d'ouevres -- but did you ever think about working at one? Volunteer to staff a registration table or collect money as a surefire way to get face time with the attendees, without plunking down $500 for a glass of champagne and a few salmon puffs.
 
5) Reconnect with your Past
 
Dreading that reunion or alumni event? DON'T! Sometimes your former (or current!) classmates can be your best assets. Laugh about old times, ask about new lives, and subtly find out what industry your old chums work in currently. You could get a job lead while cracking up over the failure of your senior prank!
 
Get creative while networking -- you could have a ton of fun AND find a kick-butt job while you're at it.
 
Stay awesome!
 
Janelle