How to Network in the Concrete Jungle
It's an essential skill in urban survival.
Illustration by Pablo Iglesias
Sure, you can set up a tent by yourself. And, of course, you don’t need help chopping wood or fending off an aggressive squirrel. Sometimes though — when the marshmallows run dry and the tent fly springs a leak — even the most competent lone wolf admits to the benefits of, if not a little grounding companionship, at least some practical support.
Just like getting to know the resident forest ranger and the campers around you has the power to elevate your outdoor experience both fun-wise and safety-wise, widening your circle of influence brings perspective and expands opportunities to enhance your skills and increase confidence. While LinkedIn and other social media allows for a tremendously broad range of online exposure and potential connectivity, it does not, as former dot-com exec Seth Godin put it, “replace the quality of relationships.” In other words, you need to get out there and meet people.
These days, the word “networking” is sometimes ascribed smarmy overtones; to be sure, the prospect of being cornered at a buffet feigning interest in a new life-insurance policy makes many of us want to flee to the woods. Good networking, however, is genuine, helpful, reciprocal and feels exactly like an authentic, transparent conversation (because that’s what it should be). Maybe the word just needs a refresh — “connecting” or “building community” or hell, let’s just call it “making friends and allies keen to help one another succeed in work and life.”
Now Go Get Out There!
If you meet an actual human, think “conversation” rather than “sales pitch.” Generally speaking, any interaction with a new human should be approached with authenticity and levity rather than with a pushy agenda. To boot, networking events are great places to practice listening skills, which will endear you to almost anyone.
Focus on connecting with a small handful of people rather than working the room at breakneck speed. People will be more likely to remember you, and more inclined to want to meaningfully connect later, if you prove you’ve got time for them.
Buy a membership to a co-work space. The Commons is a large and eclectic “work, meet, play” space that caters to entrepreneurs and small-business owners who want to mix, mingle and stave off “lonesome freelancer” syndrome. Access to a variety of meeting and event spaces can be yours for a monthly payment of between $50 and $1,300.
Show up to the monthly Women in Business coffee-chats. The group also presents occasional “lunch and learn” seminars on topics such as leadership, marketing, business and finances.
Mingle with entrepreneurial types at Startup Drinks Calgary gatherings.