How To Diversify and Expand Your Network
It is no secret that networking can be an anxiety-inducing experience, so our friends at NexGoal have offered up some advice on how to make this process easier. Once you’ve gotten more comfortable with networking, it is time to take your efforts to the next level. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Having an expansive network can lead to new opportunities both personally and professionally. As people, we tend to gravitate towards like-minded individuals or those who are similar to us. When it comes to networking, however, connecting with people that have different interests and viewpoints can help you learn and grow. This is referred to as diversifying your network.
Go To Non-Industry Events
If you want to diversify and expand your network, going to networking events outside of your specific industry seems like a no-brainer. However, when push comes to shove, most people will tend to stick with what they know and within their comfort zone; meaning they’ll go to industry events where they know people.
According to Chizzy Igbokwe from The Art of Global Citizenship:
“Take a genuine interest in the person and not their title or industry. To expand your professional circles, go to events that peak your interest, not just industry-specific events. Shift your mindset from networking to building relationships. When you meet someone new, be intentional about building a friendship with them and put aside what they can do for you.”
Broaden Your Definition of Networking
When we think of networking, the picture painted is typically people in professional attire exchanging business cards. While not exactly wrong, per se, networking is more than that. If you truly want to diversify and expand your network you must broaden your definition first.
The definition of networking, per Investopedia, is “a process that fosters the exchange of information and ideas among individuals or groups that share a common interest. It may be for social or business purposes. Professionals connect their business network through a series of symbolic ties and contacts.”
“Don’t distinguish between your professional and personal network. Everyone you meet and know could support you in your next career move. Family, friends and people you meet socially – such as people you meet at the gym – can be a part of your network. Personal connections can be even more invested in your progress. I use the word ‘connecting’ versus ‘networking’ as that is more authentic for me.”
Develop Other Interests
If you stick with what you know and what you’re interested in, chances are you will only meet people with similar viewpoints and interests. While connecting with people who share a common interest may be easier than with those who don’t, you won’t really challenge yourself if you stick within your comfort zone. When you stop learning, you stop living, so find new things that interest you and connect with others!
Donald Hatter says, “Read and learn about topics outside of your comfort zone. Once you are able to engage with others about ideas or current events outside of your industry, you will be able to build your network with professionals outside your industry.”
Go Back to School
The Albert Einstein quote, “Once you stop learning, you start dying,” is a good motivator for continued learning and growth. Although it might not be as drastic as dying, we should constantly find opportunities to learn more and grow. Many people are deciding to continue their education in order to continue learning and being able to apply new knowledge to their career and be more marketable for further opportunities. Another added benefit to going back to school or taking a new class is the built-in networking opportunity with your classmates.
Although going back to school is not feasible for some people, this is an opportunity to consider if you have the means.
According to Caterina Kostoula of The Leaderpath, “The best way I know to meet interesting people is to take a course for a new skill or subject. The people you will meet are interested in the same topic, so you start from a common base. You share the experience of the course so there is plenty to talk about. You can all help each other get better. This way you will create relevant and deeper connections.”