Many people are familiar with the popular theory of six degrees of separation – the idea that everyone in the world is somehow connected through at most six intermediate links. Your friend’s sister-in-law has a colleague who went to school with a guy who now works for Elon Musk or something like that. The concept is meant to underscore the power of networking and how you can reap incredible benefits by merely knowing the right people.
However, just understanding the concept of networking does nothing. You still have to put it into practice. And a lot of aspiring employees fail in the execution by limiting themselves to networking only within their company. While it’s certainly helpful to have connections in different levels of the hierarchy at work, you’re only scratching the tip of the iceberg.
Making connections outside of your work environment can lead to the most influential opportunities you’ll ever have. Here are some ways to go beyond the confines of your office when building your network.
Hobbies and sports
Pursuing your interests isn’t just a way to enjoy your leisure time; it’s also a perfect chance to break the ice and forge secure connections with like-minded people. Instead of going solo on your next hike, for instance, meet up with a group of outdoor enthusiasts from Salt Lake City. You could end up forming useful connections with anyone from a digital marketing expert to a wellness trainer or an auto accident attorney, each of whose skills could prove invaluable down the line.
Conventions and conferences
From time to time, you might have the chance to attend an industry-related conference or convention as part of your job. Whether it’s held out-of-town or locally, an event like that always offers up a field of diverse connections. This can be an excellent venue where you’ll get to meet people from industries and backgrounds which are unrelated to your own. You will gain valuable exposure to new ideas from speakers and participants alike while expanding your network considerably.
Most of us have an online presence of some sort, but merely adding people to your contacts on Facebook or LinkedIn isn’t going to do much for your career or business opportunities. Make the extra effort to go beyond and reach out to people through different means at your disposal. Running a blog with meaningful content can give you the platform you need to interview industry leaders and experts as part of your podcast, for example. Not only will you be able to spend more time and have a genuine conversation with people, but you’ll also get to add value by connecting them with your audience.
Building a network isn’t always about meeting new people. Sometimes vital connections can come in the form of individuals you’ve met in the past. Stay in touch with your old groups, from colleagues at former companies to old classmates in high school or university. You never know where people’s paths could take them, and attending that upcoming reunion could be just what you need to reconnect and strike up a mutually beneficial relationship with an old acquaintance.
Nurturing your network takes effort. If you’re committed to it, don’t restrict yourself to the limited opportunities within your company – expand your horizons by making those connections all the time outside of work, and see where those possibilities could lead.