5 innovative networking practices for professional growth

31067002 - portrait of kitchen staff in homeless shelterCareers have always been about connections. Great business deals happen because individuals connect. But how do we get there?

We network.

You hear it all the time and you know it’s important, but it can be hard to find the right niche for meeting and networking with others. However, in a day and age where we can connect online and in person with anyone, the possibilities are endless.

Take your online contacts to a new level. Sure you have amazing LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook connections, but the truth is, unless you meet with them in-person those connections mean nothing. One of the best ways to stand out in the chaotic online scene is to meet face-to-face.

Volunteer. Find a cause you’re passionate about, or one that aligns with your career in some way, and sign up to volunteer. This is a great way to meet people in an informal way and to make meaningful connections.

Do your homework. Truth: it can be intimidating to talk to a stranger. Truth: It is a lot easier to talk to someone when you know you have something in common. Before you meet, email or tweet, do your research and see if there is some common thread you can use to start the conversation.

Attend events out of your circle. The only way to meet new people is to do new things. Expand your horizon by researching local happenings or events in the city that might add to your career connections.

Remember, quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter if you have a million connections — it only matters if they count. Be specific about who you connect with, and be picky when you reach out. Narrow it down to your dream team of connections, then work from there.

What are you waiting for? Who knows, maybe the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” might just apply to you.