I worked for the same company for 31 years, getting to know a wide range of people across the globe. But when I got laid off in 2009, I observed something which rocked me pretty deeply: Almost all of my quality relationships were either in that company, or through my church. The company contacts were almost all OUTSIDE my local area here, since I’d been working in geographically distributed groups for many years.
But as a small business coach, my target clients are here local.
This felt very strange to me, almost being an outsider in my own community.
How do you get connected with influential people in the local area, whether for business relationships, job searching, or social relationships? The current wisdom tells you to get out there and network. Join meetup groups, attend networking functions, and so on.
As an introvert, though, it’s real easy for me to get lost in the background. I think I’m “networking” when in fact, I’m not having quality conversations with anybody. Being an attendee might cause people to recognize your face, but if you want to be known, you have to have actual discussions.
So current wisdom also says to set up one-to-one meetings with the people you meet at a networking group. That’s highly valuable, and I still spend a decent amount of time each week doing exactly that.
But I’ve found an even more powerful way to build quality relationships: Volunteering for something important.
When you take an active role at your kids’ school, you’ll help the teachers and administrators to respect what you do. And you’ll connect with other parents who are also active.
When you join a networking group, you can stay passive. Or you can volunteer for a leadership role. Others will start seeing you more visibly, and associate with you various leadership qualities.
When you volunteer to help at a charity fundraiser event, people will appreciate the contributions you’re making, associate you with a good cause, and start viewing you as a leader in other contexts.
Are you wanting others to view you as a generous, capable and influential person? Volunteer for a role in an organization that you’re passionate about.