Not Your Average Networking: 3 Fun Ways to Build Connections

Ladies, here's a refreshing break from the same old, same old

(Image: Thinkstock)

I’ve attended and reported on many professional development events and panels, and one word repeated what seems like a million times is networking. One interesting, common theme is that today’s professionals—especially millennials—are stepping away from the old-school “What can you do for me? Here’s my card,” sort of networking to find more engaging ways to actually build long-lasting relationships.

If you’re in a networking rut and want to upgrade your efforts, try these three fun ways to expand your professional circles, especially for the ladies. (Hey, it is Women’s History Month, remember?)

1. Power Plays Over Pedicures: Oftentimes, getting a mani-pedi is a time to relax and take a break from business. But why not kill two birds with one stone—especially during a service that most women take part in at least twice a month anyway? Entrepreneur.com recently reported on an international marketing professional and entrepreneur who incorporated pedicure appointments in her meetings in an effort to gain clients in a new country. I’ve also found this to be a great ice-breaker in connecting with other women in the media industry. I mean, who doesn’t like a good foot massage and buffing? To make it more conducive to conversation, be sure to find places where you can talk freely (without disturbing other customers), or  book a private room for groups. Also, take advantage of discounts and Groupon deals.

2. Virtual Connections Via the Web: Many companies and organizations, such as the New York Urban League and Brazen Careerist, host virtual job fairs that include a networking component. And you don’t have to necessarily be looking for a new gig to participate. Register, log in, check out the companies involved, and chat with job seekers and employers as you would at any other networking event. The fun thing about this is that you can do it from the comfort of your home or office, and you won’t face some of the pressure that comes with face-to-face networking. Just remember, you still have to look professional (if you’re going to participate in video chatting) and make sure the technology you’re using is up to par for streaming and messaging.

3. Watch Parties for TV buffs: I can’t tell you how many people I’ve connected and continued to do business with simply because of a shared interest in a top TV show or sporting event. Many power women love ABC’s Scandal, for example, and watch parties for those have become the not-to-miss events attended by the who’s who of any industry. It’s a great way to not only enjoy dialogue about episodes and themes, but connect with others on something you have in common. If you host a watch party, partner with other organizations, coworkers or groups in your industry, and be sure to invite people you don’t already know (along with the ones you do.)