We all need to network in some way in our lives. Networking is something that can seem unnatural and can be very uncomfortable whether it be at school (or our kids' school), at work, church, our neighborhood or community.
While forcing ourselves into uncomfortable situations can be awful, I've found two easy ways to network without feeling like a despised door-to-door salesman. These two approaches have resulted in some of the best social and working relationships I've had and take away a lot of the stress about meeting people with common interests and goals.These approaches can be especially helpful if you have just moved to a new area, started a new job or had a major life change like getting married, having kids, going through a divorce or retiring.
1. Take A Class - Here are a few of the classes I've taken in the past few years: blogging, social media, swimming, crafts, dreaming, mom and kid art, skiing, and personal style. When you attend a class everyone is usually new and you are all working towards learning the same things. It makes getting to know each other easier because no one is trying to sell anyone anything. You are all trying to learn together so there is an instant desire to help each other.
2. Volunteer And Serve Others - Here are a few volunteer opportunities I have had over the past years: teaching knitting, crafts, personal development and religious classes, helping plan and execute events, organizing several girls' summer camps, mentoring college students, taking meals in to community families and being a ski resort mountain host. In all these activities everyone I worked with was working together for a common goal, the successful serving of others. This creates an immediate ease between people and makes it very simple to get to know people without feeling on the spot.
Both of these approaches help me to feel like the spotlight isn't on me and give me something else to focus on that my own shyness. I have made some of my dearest friends from taking classes and volunteering. By putting myself out there in small ways I have also had great opportunities to connect with people who can help me make my dreams come true - and who I can also help. This can happen in small, inspiring conversations or result in big things like job offers. Networking doesn't need to be painful or traumatizing. There are little things you can do to make connections without fear or embarrassment.