We’ve all been told “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I used to think to myself bitterly: Well, I don’t know the right people. That’s out of my control.
And I realized that knowing the right people could actually be in my control. I just needed to get outside of my comfort zone. I would have to *shudder* network.
At business school we jokingly called networking events “The March of the Penguins” as hordes of students desperately waddled through the throng with black suits and wine, trading business cards at a rapid pace.
You know how successful I was at that? Not very.
I’ve written before about food and networking, and how great that is. But I’m going to let you in on the secret to how I started to build my network, and it doesn’t involve suits or business cards (though we do have wine):
Two years ago I hijacked a twitter conversation between people I didn’t know, who were looking for a place to knit, and offered my place. That day, I met the most incredible, powerful, and talented group of individuals, who I am so lucky to count in my professional, and personal, networks. We met, we ate, we drank, and we talked. We learned about each other’s interests and skill sets. These are the people who invited me to work on projects with them (including the incredibly successful Be Good Be Social Toronto conference), and these are the people who have been absolute rock stars in supporting my art and Etsy store. These are, frankly, my kidney people.
So what though, right? I just lucked out in finding a half dozen women whose interests and professional aspirations align with mine who also happen to knit. That’s not replicable.
Hear me out. I was invited to another knitting group. We socialize. We talk about books. We also talk jobs, careers, and opportunities.
There’s even a knitting group at work. Consider it a more creative and comfortable water cooler, and a crafty (get it?) way to build relationships with coworkers.
ASIDE: The broader knitting community is massive and organized. Keep on our good side.
Knitting is networking. And I recommend getting in to it.
But I’m a dude! You might cry. Well, step one, get over your gender essentialist issues, like these guys.
But I don’t like knitting! You might lament. Well, that’s your loss.
Now, it doesn’t have to be knitting. It could be something you’re really good at – or something you’re new to. An activity.
Knitting, or any group activity, takes the suits and business cards out of networking. We keep the wine though.
But I’m an introvert! Well, my friend, so was I. I know the anxiety of approaching strangers, and the constant fear that I’ll be laughed out of the room. Networking through an activity lets you work on something personal, and yet bond over a shared interest. Video games. Books. Drawing. Sports. Fashion. The possibilities are endless.
ASIDE: I was in Snakes and Lattes the other week and thought this place would be perfect for networking. There’s food, drink, and board games. How much fun would be it to have a networking event in that arena? (Maybe avoid Cards Against Humanity – just to be safe).
Are you all about the suits and business cards? Does the thought a conference room of strangers make you want to hide? Do you have a creative way to build your network?
In closing, here are some cool famous people knitting: