The most common piece of advice I’ve heard during my job search is that I must network. Apparently, according to the advisers, over 75% of jobs are obtained through a connection. That’s a pretty big number. I’m not sure how they arrived at it, but if I’m a betting man, it looks like I’m better off with my networking shoes on. And no, it’s not enough for me to just mobilize my existing network. I must step outside of my happy place and *gasp*, meet new people. Truth be told (My dad hates this saying. He always fires back, “no, lie to me,” and he’s right in his sarcasm. It’s akin to Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld poking fun at everyone who uses “that being said.” You’ve already said what you had to, so why announce that you said it? But I digress…), I’ve never really had any difficulty meeting new people, but when there’s an ulterior motive, it makes me feel kinda insincere, even though I’m not. But I’m here to tell you NETWORKING CAN BE FUN. And I’m not coming from that obnoxious place of trying to pacify you by telling you whatever is that paralyzes you in fear can be “fun.” Nor am I trying out corny titles for a new “Dummies”-type guidebook.
That being said, I give you… Meetup.com.
I joined Meetup.com about a year ago as part of a group of parents using it to congregate online in support of our children’s daycare. While it served that purpose, I hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of its power. Until recently. And I’ve been preaching its benefits to anyone who will listen.
The beauty of Meetup is that it removes any awkwardness in networking. Follow me.
First, you set up your profile. Here’s where it gets difficult. You need to select attributes and topics you’re interested in. Based on what you’ve selected, you receive emails advising you on meetings, gatherings, huddles, pow-wows, whatever you want to call it. And then, when you attend these meetings, meeting new folks is easy because the introduction and subsequent conversations are built-in. Everyone who signed up for that meeting shares that common interest with you. And after your event, you trade personal information and voilá you’ve got yourself new contacts for your network. Simple as that. And, if you’re brave enough, you could even initiate a meetup. Calm down, you don’t have to.
My first experience with meetup was “The Art of the Pitch.” I wanted to hone my elevator pitch and thought it might be a great place to start. It didn’t really help me on that front because the session was more about attendees pitching their products and the rest of us critiquing. I had a good time participating, and those who pitched appreciated what I had to say. Turns out I walked away with three new contacts, two of whom pitched. And I volunteered my time to help them with their projects. And since then, I’ve had meetings with each of them, and well, it’s an opportunity, and you never know. What I do know is I’m being open about all opportunities. It’s fun and exciting and it can turn into nothing, but it also could turn into something. Something very big. World, it’s on!