Networking is about building relationships, sharing information and finding sources of support. Often people play it safe, staying inside their industry walls— failing to pop that comfort-zone bubble and venture into new territory of new faces and new ideas. It’s time to go beyond the familiar to expand your network and knowledge and meet more contacts who could help get you that much closer to your goals.
We asked eight entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to give us their tips for mastering the art of meeting people beyond the boundaries of your business interests and connections:
Find an organization working on a cause you care about, and volunteer a few hours a month. It's great to step outside of your day-to-day work and contribute to a different mission, and you'll meet people who care about similar things but most likely work in different industries.
—Martina Welke, Zealyst
2. Find a Networking Wingperson
For any networking event, it can be helpful to have a networking “wingperson.” Together, you can naturally draw others into your conversation. This is particularly true if your networking wingperson is knowledgeable about an industry you are unfamiliar with. If nothing else, the event will provide you with an opportunity to get to know your networking wingperson better.
—Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC
3. Use Alumni Networks
Alumni chapters are a great way to stay connected and network outside your own company and niche. They often include graduates from different majors, and it's a fun way to learn from people you don't normally interact with. You have a shared interest in your school, and it's an easy way to meet new people.
—Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Technologies Inc.
4. Host Events
Rather than attending events, where you are one of many and may be out of your niche, host events outside of your industry. As host, you and your space are a natural focal point. In addition to this added prominence, your shifted role—from attendee to host—makes conversation easier and removes the pressure of being at the event with a specific agenda or mission.
—Brennan White, Watchtower
5. Just Start
Honestly, all you need to do is get started. Don't even think about it, just get started. If you want to become influential at anything, start by reading everything out there. Then start networking with people in that niche. Then start going to events. Then start writing about it. Then start speaking about it. Then become the expert in that niche. This is a sure way to build your network!
—John Rampton, Adogy
6. Approach a VC for Recommendations
Ask the venture capitalists who you meet which entrepreneurs they really admire. They always have a wide portfolio of companies they work with, and they’ll be able to connect you with entrepreneurs at different companies and ventures who you might not otherwise meet.
—Katrina Lake, Stitch Fix
7. Become Active on Instagram and Pinterest
We have been successful with Instagram and Pinterest for helping reach fans beyond our natural products niche. With beautiful photos, you can quickly up your following on both Instagram and Pinterest. Provide your audience with great content that they want to look at and the buzz will spread.
—Emily Doubilet, Susty Party
8. Join a Business Organization
Outside of your company and even your industry, you can build relationships and network by joining a business group like Vistage, which brings together leaders of businesses from diverse markets. It's a good mental exercise and helps you to get feedback on how your business is perceived by others outside of your industry.