It is incredibly easy to become stagnant at networking. It is easy to attend the same functions, put on by the same organizations and continue to shake the same hands, month after month and year after year. We become comfortable because, after some time, we know most of the people in the room and the conversations are easy. Relationships have been built and the nerves of meeting new people have worn off.
Do not fall into this trap.
I try to attend at least one new event each quarter where I may only know one or two of the attendees. This forces me to be on my toes and to meet new people, which helps to expand my network. It also ensures that I will continue to meet individuals who may add value to the people I already know. By attending new events and meeting new people I never get completely comfortable and complacent in my networking efforts.
New events are not hard to come by. Hundreds of organizations are putting on networking events all of the time. It simply takes a little effort to find a new function or the recommendation of a good friend. One such recommendation came when a close friend was going through a leadership program. He invited me to the kickoff party for their class project - a massive fundraiser to help a local nonprofit with their strategic plan.
Through the course of the night I met many new individuals of various backgrounds who were in completely different circles than the ones I typically associate with. Towards the end of the evening I was introduced to the executive director of the nonprofit. We hit it off and scheduled a coffee for the following week. During our coffee she asked if I would be willing to serve on their advisory committee, a group of individuals who would help fundraise and work with the board of directors to further the nonprofit’s cause. I jumped at the opportunity.
The appointment to the advisory committee of Amanda the Panda has allowed me to help many individuals who are grieving the loss of someone close to them in the community I call home. I have seen this organization touch so many people and help them through one of the hardest times in anyone’s life. It has also allowed me to connect with a whole new group of individuals and build friendships with people I would have never met if not for that event.
Do not become complacent by attending the same events. Meet new people and get out of your comfort zone once in a while. Find a new event to try or sample what another group is doing. This will allow you to continue to grow you network and expand your influence. After all, you never know what other opportunities may exist.