Happy hours, after-hour mixers and social events are old school. Networking has become a different game, and in today’s world, a more beneficial way to connect and build relationships may be through volunteering or getting involved in a community program in which your interests align with those you’re with, according to Staci Kirpach, founder of EMIT Strategies & Solutions and previous member of the SteerFW board of directors.
“I think that getting involved in some of the community groups and organizations or philanthropic efforts are always a great way to go about networking,” she said. “I think that provides a little bit more of a substantial avenue than events like an after-hours mixer.”
Here are a few networking tips from Kirpach and Harriet Harral, executive director of Leadership Fort Worth.
1. FIND SOMETHING YOU LIKE
“I think the best kind of networking comes when you’re connected, and you have the opportunity to get connected to people who share an interest,” Harral said. “Volunteering is a great way to achieve this. If you are involved in or working for some organization with a group of people doing something worthwhile, you’re going to find other people that share that kind of passion, and it connects you at a deeper level than just handing somebody a business card.”
2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
“Do research so that you know something about the people, individual, or group that are in an industry, a career, a community, or a structure that you’re interested in so that you have something to talk about with them,” Harral said.
3. WORK CONNECTIONS YOU ALREADY HAVE
“I know networking is about meeting new people, but if you start with who’s in your existing network and find out what they’re doing and how you can better support them and the group that they’re involved in, or what their interests are, then you’re more likely to land at places that are a natural fit with your goal and interests,” Kirpach said.
4. BE GENUINELY INTERESTED IN OTHERS
“I really think that a misconception of networking is that it’s superficial or self-serving,” Kirpach said. “I think you need to go into a networking opportunity with the mindset of getting to know the other people in your community and wanting to genuinely get to know and learn more about who they are, what they do, and how they’re making the city a better place for their community, and then taking the opportunity to share with them what you do. It becomes a much more intentional use of time.”
5. KEEP SHOWING UP
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and relationships aren’t built in one after-hour mixer,” Kirpach said. “You have to continue to be consistent and find a few groups that feel natural to you and then continue to work with them over a period of time.”