I think everyone can agree that “networking” is a cringey concept. No one likes to network—I mean, have you been to one of those events where everyone brings a business card, has a bunch of very forced conversations, and walks away making absolutely no genuine connections?
Networking (as a verb) is absolutely useless.
But building a network (as a noun!!!!) is vital to advancement in your career or business, success in your art, and most importantly, fulfillment in your life.
Which is why hearing this quote really struck a cord with me:
“The Opposite of a Hierarchy is a Network”
I first heard this idea via my friend Carly Valancy, who, during the pandemic, taught a whole ass course on building a network that absolutely changed my life.
(More on that later.)
I love this quote because it flipped the script on “networking” for me. If you’ve ever been upset about the hierarchical societal structures we’ve all been born into—class, race, gender, sexuality, etc—then intentional network-building is one way to rebel against that. It’s not only personally enriching, but vital to the advancement of society.
With that said… how does one even start?
The trick with any new endeavor—relationships included—is to start from a place of genuine intention. And in order to differentiate “networking” from “building a network”, you have to go in expecting to give more than you recieve.
Ahem! This part is really important, so let me say it again:
You have to go in expecting to give more than you recieve.
In fact, I’ve found it more helpful to expect nothing at all, and then be pleasantly surprised when cool things start happening in your life.
With that important disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive into some of my favorite ways to put these principles into practice and meet amazing new people.
Start a Reach Out Practice
Let me explain this one by telling a little story.
Back in 2018-ish, I read this book called Reach Out by Molly Beck. In the book, Molly explains what she calls a reach out practice—a habit she started in her early 20’s, in which she’d send an email to one new person every single day.
Molly committed to this practice and quickly saw incredible results. She got new jobs, made new friends, and even met the man who would eventually become her husband this way.
And as for reaching out itself? It turned into a framework, which turned into a book deal, which turned into a 27-day long course taught by Molly and my friend Carly.
Over the pandemic, I took this course (what must have been) 9 times in a row and connected with over 200 new people consecutively. Little did I know that the conversations I’d have with those 200 people would inspire new business endeavors, give me artistic opportunities, and change my entire life.
If you’re thinking, “That sounds amazing! I want to do that, but I’m not sure what to say in my emails.”, you have to buy Molly’s book. You won’t regret it.
Join (a Few) Online Communities
One of my favorite ways to stay connected to people in the business space is joining online communities. These communities can be free or paid, but I’ve found so much value in actively contributing & being a part of spaces where like-minded people gather on the internet. Here are a few of my faves.
AKA, the only reason I’m still on Facebook. No matter what your interests are, there’s definitely a group for that. Some of my personal favorite groups are Women in Marketing, the ShowIt User Group, and Designer’s Collective. The best part about being a part of Facebook groups is that you can be both an active and passive member. Since the content shows up in my Facebook feed regardless, I still feel like I’m in the know even when I haven’t interacted in a while.
Paid Online Communities
Paid online communities feel similar to a Facebook group, but the paid element ups the anti a little. (I always feel more accountable for staying involved because I’m actually paying for it, which I usually find helpful.) My favorite paid online community right now is The Table by Oh Sierra, “a collaborative creative community, cultivating business that feels like pleasure.” Fun fact: right now, they’re also hosting a networking challenge, so if you’re feeling inspired by this post, head over there and join us!
Communities Attached to Courses
Last—but not least—on my list of favorite ways to find community online is via communities that are attached to courses. While the buy-in is usually much higher (because courses are often expensive—by the way, read this guide I wrote about that!!!), the connections are usually deeper because of it. When you’re in a community of other people attached to a course, you all know that you have a similar education / viewpoint / knowledge about a certain topic. And that can make all the difference in the quality of your relationships and connections.
Join a Few Local Communities
I’ll admit—I’m the worst at this, because I live in NYC where people usually don’t have that much time for each other. But I’m including it in this blog post because I’ve watched other people have tons of success. Whether it’s your local Chamber of Commerce (looking at you, Sara Noel!), other business groups, or even other recreational groups like book clubs, local communities can offer an in-person element that you just can’t replace online. In this increasingly-online age, don’t write off your local folks!
With all that said… wanna be friends?
If you read this whole ass thing (or even if you didn’t), I would love to meet you! Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey, I'm Sarah Kleist.
Brand builder, website designer, and performing artist on a mission to help creatives and business owners step into their digital spotlight.
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