Never eat alone.
That’s according to Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets To Success, One Relationship at a Time. He provides tips and strategies on building your social circle without the “work” of networking. What stood out to me was how to really get the most out of industry conferences by having your own “conference” within a conference. I’ll explain more below. But here’s the main reason why you should expand your social circle: bandwidth.
You need the “bandwidth” of more people in your circle to attract opportunities that help you become successful. For instance, a college student with only three friends from their hometown who wants to explore career options, say working for a major ad agency in NYC, will have a harder time getting his or her foot in the door than a college student who has three friends, but one is an upperclassmen, the other is a classmate from the West Coast, and the other friend is an international student. The student would most likely be someone who has ventured out of his or her comfort zone to meet more people, especially the types they’d never come in contact with on an ordinary day and who can potentially provide connections in areas of interest.
Here are some things you can do to get you started:
Yup, that again. Find the most high-profile conferences in your niche. Save all year if you have to, and find one that takes you out of the country. There’s a reason why some high-profile conferences are thousands of dollars. In case you can’t fork over the cash, buy the lowest priced ticket, and make sure you connect with at least 10 people, not 100. You want meaningful connections that last. Ferrazzi advises that you throw a little shindig in your hotel room for the top five. Perhaps, wine and a few snacks in the evening after a long day can set the tone for a new business connection that produces results later.
Start your own dinner group and invite your top, local LinkedIn connections. Make sure it’s no more than five people. You want to establish an easy flow of conversation. A few years ago, I started my own called The Grove in NYC, with a mix of finance and media women. Anything is possible here as long as you keep it simple—and fun.
Initiation fees and costs can be pricey, but if you are interested in meeting others who give back to their local community, this is the way to go. Tip: Attend a few meetings first to make sure it’s a good fit.
Check your college’s alumni association. Many have boards and diversity initiatives you can join. The benefits to this are obvious. You meet new people who you already have something in common with, and they may be pretty smart, too.
Here’s something powerful that happens when you expand your social circle: growth. It’s not the kind of growth that happens when you cozy up to a self-help book. It’s the life-changing kind that happens when you get to know strangers, leap out of your comfort zone, and say “yes” to life.
Maryann Reid is the Digital Managing Editor of BlackEnterprise.com and the author of several books published by St. Martin’s Press. For more, please follow her @RealAlphanista.