How To Network As A Young Person

As I started organizing my anime conventions back in 2010, I've been navigating the entrepreneurial waters for a while now. One thing I've realized along this journey is the undeniable power of networking. It's not just about exchanging business cards or adding another connection on LinkedIn; it's about building relationships that can pivot the direction of your career and life.

And it helps in business and real life too. I went to a networking event and met a hotel contact that I had trouble getting in touch with for ages. Thanks to that face-to-face interaction, I was able to get a contract signed with their hotel in a week! Being out there in the community really helped with one of our conventions!

I want to share with you some insights and personal experiences that have shaped my approach to networking as a young person.

Get Out There and Mingle

First things first, to network effectively, you've got to get out of your house. I can't stress this enough. While the digital age has brought us closer in many ways, when it comes to networking, there's nothing quite like face-to-face interactions. Online connections might feel convenient, but they lack the immediacy and impact of being physically present. Think about it, those individuals could be halfway across the globe. The "network effect" of physical proximity just doesn't kick in.

I've also written about how many people online are just bots and trolls, talking with them does nothing for you!

I've made it a point to attend events all around my area, making an effort to strike up conversations and connect with people on a personal level. This strategy isn't just about expanding my professional circle but about embedding myself in a community of like-minded individuals. Just today, I ran into someone I met at an event while we were both out shopping. We caught up as if no time had passed, and that's the kind of connection that's truly invaluable.

group of people standing around

Join Local Groups and Volunteer

One of the best ways to meet people and network effectively is by getting involved in local groups and volunteer organizations. Some organizations like Jaycees, Habitat for Humanity, are easy to join and just start helping. Other groups, often focused on professionals or local residents like various Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, etc can be a bit pricey to afford a membership, but they offer a wealth of networking opportunities. You're not just adding to your contact list; you're making meaningful contributions to your community.

If membership fees are a concern, look into other local volunteer programs. For instance, in the Quad Cities Area, there's "Tapestry Farms," a nonprofit dedicated to growing food. Such initiatives not only allow you to give back but also to meet people from various walks of life who share your passion for making a difference.

Some local places you can volunteer in the Quad Cities

* Habitat for Humanity
* King's Harvest Pet Rescue
* Tapestry Farms
* River Bend Food Bank
* Quad Cities Open Network

If you're near Chicago:
* Chicago Food Depository - Works to fight hunger locally by distributing food donations to Chicago and Cook County communities.
PAWS Chicago - Dedicated to building no-kill communities for animals in Chicago, focusing on adoption, spay/neutering, and education.
* 826CHI - A non-profit creative writing, tutoring, and publishing center dedicated to supporting students aged 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills.
* The Night Ministry - Provides housing, health care, and human connection to members of the Chicago community struggling with poverty or homelessness.
* Cradles to Crayons - Assists children from birth through age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations by providing essential items they need to thrive.

If you're near Minneapolis:
* Second Harvest Heartland - One of the largest food banks in the nation, focusing on hunger relief through food distribution to various partner programs around Minneapolis and the broader region.
* Open Arms of Minnesota - Provides meals, free of charge, to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities.
* Fruit of the Vine Food Shelf - Offers food assistance to those in need in the Minneapolis area, with a focus on dignity and respect for all individuals.

Remembering Names is Key

Now, let's talk about a networking fundamental – remembering people's names. This might seem trivial, but it's a game-changer. When you remember someone's name, it shows that you value the interaction and are genuinely interested in building a relationship. I often use mnemonic devices to help me remember names. It might sound silly, but associating a name with a mental image or a rhyme can make all the difference.

Many people say you have to make mnemonic rhymes match the person, but often that's tough. I met a Mark the other day at a local event. Mark is restoring an old house in the neighborhood just behind mine, so it was quite neat to meet! I could not for the life of me find a rhyme that matched him. But I did note the room was dark. I met a Mark in the Dark in the building by the park. Weird? Maybe, but I remembered his name!

Building Lasting Relationships

Networking isn't a one-and-done deal. It's about fostering relationships that grow over time. This means following up after you meet someone, whether it's sending a quick email, connecting on social media, or inviting them out for coffee. The goal is to keep the conversation going and find ways to support each other.

Be Yourself

Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can offer is to be yourself. Authenticity goes a long way in networking. People are drawn to individuals who are genuine and sincere. Don't try to be someone you're not just to impress others. Your unique perspective and experiences are what make you interesting and valuable to your network.

Talk about whatever interesting things you do! If you're an expert in computer code, don't be afraid to talk about the new PC you've built. Just remember, conversations are a two-way street. You better be just as interested in hearing what they're into!

Networking as a young person, especially for entrepreneurs, is crucial. It's about more than just making contacts; it's about building a community that supports and inspires you. By getting out there, joining local groups, remembering names, and being yourself, you can develop meaningful connections that will benefit you both personally and professionally.

Remember, networking is a journey, not a destination. Each interaction is a step toward building a more connected and supportive community. So, take the plunge, be open to meeting new people, and who knows where your next conversation might lead you.

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