6 Smart Ways To Expand Your Network, Even If You're Shy

networking offlineBy Vicky Oliver

Believe it or not, there are still folks out there whose hands aren't soldered to their laptops or mobile devices and who'd rather network in a venue with real live people.

Social networking may be a great way to digitally meet potential new colleagues, clients, and customers. But "retro-networking" is, for many, still the preferred way to forge professional connections: face-to-face. In fact, because digital networking seems to have eclipsed other methods, in-person networking feels way more exclusive and potentially effective. Here are six activities that allow you to "retro"-fy your networking pursuits:

1. Plan a trip.
You never know what well-connected person might turn out to be your seat mate. Consider get an airline club membership so you can walk the lounge and strike up a conversation with professional-looking people. Even better, look for someone sitting alone and ask if you can join them. You can also make your waiting time in the lounge pay off by telling your social network colleagues where you'll be before your flight -- an in-person meeting might be in the cards. Plan ahead for opportunities at your destination -- in advance of your trip, consider, say, booking a golf game at your hotel with fellow business travelers using an online golf club.

2. Find the "connector."
The key person you always want to locate and meet is the connector. That's typically the super-confident person who's invariably surrounded by acolytes and who seems to know everyone by name. Don't marginalize yourself from these individuals -- they may seem unapproachable or too busy to talk with someone they don't know. But they actually live for (and love) networking. Figure out how to introduce yourself to the connector and you'll gain access to a whole new community.

Better yet, become a connector yourself. The way you speak, dress, move, shake hands, and communicate instantly says everything about who you are. Be the attractor by encouraging people to talk about themselves and their interests.

3. Volunteer.
Some nonprofit organizations -- like art and history museums, historical societies, and botanical gardens, for starters -- do attract movers and shakers in the business world who want to do good. And you may wind up in their company if you volunteer and become active on some core committees, such as fund-raising or events planning. The upside is potential invitations to parties and the opportunity to hone your skills.

4. Adjust your LinkedIn options.
If your name on LinkedIn appears as "Anonymous" when you view other people's profiles, then you can't tell who's reading your profile either. Instead, set your profile so that your name appears when you're looking up other people, who'll then be able to see that you've just read their profiles. That means you'll be able to see that other people have been checking out your profile, too. If you notice someone is periodically looking at your profile, get in touch with that person -- it may result in a new professional contact.

5. Get out of your house.
Outside the home is typically where people you've never met before hang out. Consider developing a new hobby that involves other people. Bridge, chess or sports may yield results. Subscribing to Meetup is also a great way to receive emails when special-interest groups plan to meet. Craigslist, Facebook and LinkedIn all provide ways to start groups, as well. And how can you forget the benefits of brainstorming over a meal? Inviting colleagues to breakfast, lunch or dinner often yields the one-on-one time and attention that's hard to come by with people's packed schedules. As they say, everyone's got to eat.

6. Seek out old college or high school pals.
You're never a stranger to your former classmates, which is why it's smart to network with them. Establish ties or reconnect with your high school, college or business school, and sign up for the alumni newsletter. There's a good chance you'll learn about local networking events.

Vicky Oliver , a career consultant, has written five bestselling career-development books in a row. Her newest, The Millionaire's Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire, Even If You're Not, international bestseller, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions; 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions; Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots; and Power Sales Words: How to Write It, Say It, and Sell It with Sizzle.

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