When I say networking, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most people will think of social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. However, networking through these platforms doesn’t always truly build the meaningful relationships you could be having with your community. Networking can go beyond the screen and help you build new friendships, boost social skills, and make a difference. I would like to share with you some great ways to start networking within your community in a meaningful way.
1. Volunteer Your Skills
Volunteering is a two-way street: you can give back to your community while developing important social skills, gaining valuable work experience, and constructively using your abilities. Volunteer opportunities may also put you in a position of leadership that you may not have had before, bringing new challenges and and an opportunity to learn new skills. It is also a great way to expand your network!
Find volunteer opportunities in your community by visiting Volunteer Match. This site can help show you volunteer opportunities by location, topic, nonprofit, and popularity. Volunteer and make that special impact.
2. Connect with Community Groups
Pick a topic and there is probably a community group already formed around it: game development, 3D printing, UI/UX, marketing, biking, gardening, baking, creative writing, and so much more. Connecting with a community group will not only improve skills in your chosen hobby/interest but will also help you make tons of new friends and connections along the way. Attending monthly meetups will also help push you to keep up with an after-work hobby that would otherwise be too easy to brush aside.
I highly recommend using Meetup to search for community groups. You can filter by topic, event, and group. Once you find a group you like, be sure to join it and get updates for when their next meetings are.
3. Join a Nonprofit Board
I consider this topic the final boss of meaningful networking. If you are already volunteering and are connected with a community group (or two), then the next logical step is to participate in a local committee or board. Serving on a nonprofit board is a valuable learning opportunity. You will not only learn more about the field the nonprofit is in but you will also gain experience in governance and leadership. Serving on a nonprofit board also means you will be able to connect with other leaders and change-makers in your community. Your access to professional networks will grow beyond your circle of influence by a much greater magnitude. Beyond networking, you will also be making a difference for the nonprofit you are serving.
Learning which nonprofit boards are looking for new members is not as easy as visiting a website, though. This involves tapping the connections you have made in the community and doing some research. My own journey of becoming a member of a nonprofit board started with volunteering. After gaining some experience with the organization, I asked if I could get more involved. Simply asking will usually get your foot in the door toward many great opportunities.
Networking is important for your career, social wellbeing, and community. I challenge you to go beyond LinkedIn. Become a volunteer or a member of the local UI/UX coffee meetup and ultimately become a leader for good. This is truly meaningful networking. Grow as a person; grow with your community.